By Liz O’Donnell

As the search for a Supreme Court justice to replace David Souter heats up, political pundits and analysts are talking about what litmus test, if any, President Obama might apply when vetting a nominee. But scientific metaphors are not needed in this situation -- basic math skills are.

An early childhood mathematics concept called one-to-one correspondence shows us that President Obama needs to appoint a woman to the Supreme Court. Currently, 51 percent of the country's population is female. Yet only 11 percent of the Supreme Court, or one justice, is female. That is not one-to-one correspondence. With one-to-one correspondence, the members of one group can be evenly matched with the members of another.

My four-year-old daughter has mastered the concept in preschool. But our country's leaders still seem to struggle with it.

Women are still woefully underrepresented in the boardrooms of major corporations. This despite the fact women make 85 percent of all consumer purchasing decisions in this country. Women hold only 17 percent of the seats in Congress yet we proclaim to have a representative government. Women represent just 37 percent of full-time daily newspaper staffers and only 15 percent of all Hollywood and radio producers. Only 17 percent of law firm partners are women. For those of you who missed class, this is not one-to-one correspondence.

Conservatives who fear a "radical" appointment to the court will argue that the lack of women among our country's leaders is representative of choices women make to opt out of corporate jobs or not run for elected office. Those choices are indeed a factor but so are blatant discriminatory practices and ingrained biases. In Supreme Court nominations however, all of the normal factors that contribute to the lack of women at the top, factors such as an insufficient talent pool of qualified female candidates or outdated, sexist stereotypes about risk averse women or work-life balance don't need to come into play. The fact is that there are a number of very qualified, very capable women from which to choose the next Supreme Court justice. These women are ready and able to take the bench.

Appointing a woman to the Supreme Court will satisfy multiple requirements. It will underscore this country's new reality of equality for everyone. It will also satisfy President Obama's criteria of appointing a justice who understands how the law affects the everyday lives of Americans.

Litmus tests might help protect the agendas of special interest groups and activists but they won't help Obama meet his stated objective.

Appointing a woman will. Half of the everyday Americans served by the government are female. Today just one Supreme Court justice is a woman. You do the math.
O’Donnell is a public relations consultant and regular contributor to
Copyright (C) 2009 by the American Forum. 5/09