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Key Excerpt: Feinstein and Sotomayor on Women in Law

Courtesy of CQ Transcriptions

SEN. FEINSTEIN: Right. I'm not asking you to. Right.

Now, many have made comments regarding your Latina -- "wise Latina" comment. And I'd like to just take a moment to put your comments in the context of the experiences of women. And this country is built on very great accomplishments. We forged a new country. We broke away from the British. We wrote documents that have stood the test of time. The Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights.

But we also have a history of slavery, segregated schools, of employment discrimination, of hate crimes, and unspoken prejudices that can make it very hard for individuals to be treated fairly or even to believe that they can do well in this society.

So I understand empowerment and the role that it plays. And everything has been hard fought. We, as women, didn't have the right to vote until 1920. And that was after a tremendous battle waged by a group of very brave women called suffragettes. And when you graduated law school in 1979, there had never been a woman on the Supreme Court.

Today, women represent 50.7 percent of the population, 47 percent of law school graduates, and 30 percent of American lawyers. But there are only 17 women senators, and only one woman is currently serving on the Supreme Court, and we still make only $0.78 on the dollar that a man makes.

So we're making progress, but we're not there yet, and we should not lose sight of that. My question is, as you have seen this -- and you must have seen how widely broadcast this is -- that you become an instant role model for women. And how do you look at this -- your appointment to the court -- affecting empowerment for women? And I'd be very interested in any comments you might make. And this has nothing to do with the law.

JUDGE SOTOMAYOR: I chose the law because it's more suited to that part of me that's never sought the kind of attention that public figures -- other public figures -- get. When I was in law school, some of my friends thought I would go into the political arena not knowing that what I sought was more the life of a judge, thinking, involved in that, and the process of the rule of law.

My career as a judge has shown me that, regardless of what my desires were, that my life, what I have accomplished, does serve as an inspiration for others. It's a sort of awesome sense of responsibility. It's one of the reasons that I do so many activities with people in the community, not just Latinos but all groups because I understand that it is women. It's Latinos, it's immigrants. It's Americans of all kinds and all backgrounds.

Continue reading the exchange between Sen. Feinstein and Judge Sotomayor here.

By Washington Post editors  |  July 16, 2009; 10:25 AM ET
Categories:  Hearings , Supreme Court , Topics: Women in Law  
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