Just a few days ago, we received the happy news that Australian law professor Hilary Charlesworth has been elected as a judge to the International Court of Justice (ICJ). Almost in parallel, at the same time, the University of Chicago Law Review published an essay by Fred Shapiro, containing the list of most cited legal scholars of all time. The top 25 such scholars are all men. In other words, despite the seeming prominence of some of our notable female colleagues, not a single one of them has amassed a sufficiently high number of citations to be included on this list.
Six years ago, a group of human rights lawyers launched the GQUAL Campaign in order to raise awareness about the absence of women in international justice as well as to promote solutions which would contribute toward inclusion of women.
First, the Report includes crucial information about the under-representation of women at various UN bodies and mechanisms.
Second, the Report makes it clear that several of its goals would be best achieved through the informal and formal work of professional networks, which can reach women from under-represented backgrounds and adopt a proactive advocacy agenda.
Third, the Report makes clear that it is necessary to explicitly include gender parity or balance as a criterion in the selection and nomination procedures, and that it is therefore crucial to obtain personal and institutional commitments and pledges toward this goal. Fourth, the Report underscores the need for women to break the glass ceiling as a right to gender equality and non-discrimination.
And, fifth, the Report recognizes that the fundamental problem regarding women’s under-representation at international institutions is the lack of appropriate domestic nomination processes, which, coupled with the lack of institutional mechanisms to remedy the issue at the international level, lead toward a perpetual absence of gender parity.
Once international law’s ceiling is hopefully broken, not only will women occupy a respectable number of positions at prominent institutions, but in addition female scholars will be cited equally as their male counterparts. Let’s hope that, in the near future, Judge Charlesworth is in mostly female company at the ICJ and that the list of top-cited legal scholars includes the names of our distinguished female colleagues.