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June 21, 2013

What difference do women judges make?

Do women judges make decisions differently to male judges? According to a small scale experiment by BBC’s law in action they don’t. Law students were asked to guess the gender of the judge from the written judgement they produced. They got it wrong approximately half the time. But that does not negate the importance of striving for a better gender balance amongst judges, and a better balance in general – of age, class, ethnic origin, disability and sexual orientation. Any group develops group think, and that thinking is affected by the background and experiences of individuals in the group. If half of all judges were women, and more were from poor backgrounds, the culture of judges would be different. As it is, women judges usually sit on appeals with men and are outnumbered by them. So the culture must be dominated by male thinking.

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