02 October 2009

Do women make better judges? (UPDATED)

Research recently summarized in an article on Slate.com finds that though female judges tend to be less qualified than their male counterparts, they are just as competent in their decision-making.

Having worked side-by-side with women all my professional life--in English, theology and philosophy departments; in psychiatric-care facilities, and various kinds of ministries,-- I have never found all that much difference between how men and women work professionally.

My dissertation director and most of my committee were women. Most of my seminary professors were women. In fact, all of my pastoral supervisors in seminary were women. The only trouble I ran into was during my CPE summer at SLU Hospital--three feminist sisters who refused to work with me b/c I wore my habit everyday. The Protestant male ministers were just as hostile.

Thinking back over all my jobs since college, I have had only one male supervisor--a tech manager I worked for at my university's microbiology lab a hundred years ago during my freshman year.

I'd be interested to hear other people's experience working with someone of the opposite sex.

UPDATE: A friar wrote to remind me of a conversation we had a few years back about one of the many "sticking points" between generations within male religious: working collaboratively with women in ministry. For younger friars this has been a given in our lives (religious and otherwise) from day one. For friars in their late 60's and older, working with women collaboratively was something entirely new when it started in earnest after the Council, something that had to be thought out, carefully planned, and done with diligence and care. When I entered the novitiate in 1999, the older friars (in the three provinces I was introduced to at the time) seemed oddly taken with this new-fangled notion of "collaboration with women and the laity." For me and the other younger friars, it seemed as though they were buzzing around and fussing about the importance of wearing shoes and brushing one's teeth. When we asked about this buzzing and fussing, our questions were taken to be indications of opposition to the notion--a prophetic sign that All Their Hard Work to Implement the Council would be wasted on and undone by a new generation of clerical misogynists. That all of us younger guys consistently received superior evaluations on from our ministry supervisors--mostly women--did little to assuage their fears. We were--and still are to some extend--pounded with collaboration propaganda. The irony, of course, is that they have succeed wonderfully in showing us the good Christian sense in working with all of our brothers and sisters in Christ. Now, we just have to find a way to convince them that we aren't out to create a new class of Phallocentric Priests!


  1. Anonymous4:56 AM

    I live in a mostly-male environment, but I've done student committee work with both men and women. I didn't notice any difference either.

    What I do notice is that a mix is better than all-men or all-women. I'm often the only woman (physics over here is a male thing), and the guys do say that it's different when there's a woman around.

    We have the theory that 20-80 or 30-70 is best, be it mostly men or mostly women, because with 50-50 we sometimes do get a "battle of the sexes". With a bigger difference in numbers, that just ceases to be interesting. But I don't know whether that's a young adult thing specifically.

  2. Anonymous5:43 PM

    My worst boss ever was a single woman in her late 40's, but the runner-up was a single man in his 50's, and the difference between the two isn't that great -- both were given to yelling for no good reason, and, if they had a reason, blowing up out of all proportion to the fault.

    I echo the previous post about a mix being better that almost all one or the other.