The “selectors” of expert witnesses are attorneys, both male and female. Remember: attorneys do the choosing, but juries have the last word.

What if juries are less sexist than attorneys? Or, more likely, what if juries consider the credibility of a woman expert witness differently than a man, depending on the case.

“An astonishing 80 percent of expert witnesses chosen by attorneys are male, and those male experts get paid on average 60 percent more…” (Bloomberg research.)”[i]

Judge Shira Scheindlin, 22 years on the federal bench, recalls female experts, in all fields: “maybe a psychologist or two.”[ii] [iii]

Note about 70% of psychologists are women and 57% of psychiatrists are women.

If sexism, internalized or externalized, is interfering with the best representation the attorney can give their client, they are breaching their highest ethical duty.

All things being equal (forensic expertise, experience, credibility), women who challenge attorney sexism about expert witnesses head-on, have a better chance of enlarging their forensic practice than those that ignore it. You can introduce an alternate reality, perhaps a truer reality. Is gender relevant to a jury? Are there cases when a woman expert witness is preferable? Bringing attorneys on board by making this point can only help women get expert witness work, and close the money gap.

We know that humans attribute women and men with different characteristics about trustworthiness, sympathy, how we respond to a style of communication, and credibility about the subject at hand. Write about it, speak about it, apply it to med-legal issues. Attorneys respond when they understand how to make their cases strong

[i] Kaufman, Bruce, “Attorneys Faulted for Scarcity of Female Expert Witnesses,” Online, Bloomberg Law, Litigation (August 28, 2017), https://www.bna.com/attorneys-faulted-scarcity-n73014463810

[ii] Ibid

[iii] Surveys that breakout forensic practice from general clinical practice barely exist, let alone the percentage by gender. In 2007, among psychologists generally, about 72 percent of new PhD and PsyDs entering psychology were women (APA’s Center for Psychology Workforce Analysis and Research.) This is consistent with the US Bureau of Labor Statistics finding 9 years later that 67.5% of psychologists were women (2016). Given in all professional fields requiring higher education, the population of women has consistently grown over time. This would suggest female psychologists who have acquired additional forensic training are a younger population than men in the same field. Younger generally means less experience, and therefore less desirable as experts. Less experience also implies a lower hourly rate and less income. Research (scant) isn’t incompatible with these statements.

Regarding physicians, 57% of medical residents in Psychiatry were women in 2015. Vassar, Lyndra, “How medical specialties vary by gender.” AMA Wire, Online. (Feb. 28 2015)

The ABPN reports for 2016, about 3% of board-certified psychiatrists are also board certified in forensic psychiatry; I found no recorded distinction by gender.

Spread the love
Back to top