Women In Criminal Law

Women In Law Edition 22'



Brittany Sifontes

Criminal law is a field I hold near and dear to my heart. As a woman, I have seen firsthand the disparate ways in which we are treated. I began my career as a public defender, representing the indigent community, and now I continue to work as a part-time prosecutor. Being a woman in criminal law has been challenging but very rewarding. I became an attorney to help others, and criminal law has allowed me to protect both the rights of the accused and victims.

As with all representation, women bring different experiences and perspectives into the courtroom, which is why they are crucial to achieving fairness and justice. Historically, the criminal justice system was designed by men for men. However, the percentage of women in prison is growing globally and at a faster rate than the male prison population. In the United States, confining women in federal, state, and local facilities has increased 700% over the last 30 years. Yet, female attorneys are underrepresented in this same system.

Many organizations around the world have begun to address the lack of representation and have pushed to increase the number of women in these roles. For example, in March of 2022, the United Nations launched a gender-responsive justice initiative to promote gender balance and gender responsiveness across the justice spectrum. This initiative seeks to raise awareness of the role of female judges through several different platforms.

In 2019, the American Bar Association created the Women in Criminal Justice Task Force to investigate the causes of the underrepresentation of women in the criminal sector and the challenges facing women criminal lawyers in hiring, retention, and promotion. The Task Force identified several issues that prevent women from entering and staying in the criminal sector: limited flexibility with work schedules; insufficient wellness resources; deficient training opportunities; and a lack of meaningful mentoring. Both men and women need to work together to address these barriers to allow the criminal sector to become more accessible and appealing to women.

While women have made great progress in criminal law, much more work still needs to be done. But with the increased attention to the role of women within this sector, I’m optimistic women will continue to gain equality in this area and all areas of law.