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Shortlisted: Women in the Shadows of the Supreme Court

(forthcoming New York University Press spring 2020)

Shortlisted unveils a never-before-told history of U.S. Supreme Court appointments—her story. Before Sandra Day O’Connor became the first female justice in 1981, nine women were formally listed but passed over by presidents going all the way back to Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Award-winning scholars Hannah Brenner and Renee Newman Knake rely on previously unpublished materials from historical archives and presidential libraries to tell the stories of bathing beauties, lesbians, mistresses and more, all women highly credentialed and exceedingly qualified for the Court even though not selected. Brenner and Knake cleverly weave together the individual journeys of these shortlisted sisters and create a guide that will inspire anyone navigating the climb to a position of leadership or power.

In addition to filling this notable historical gap, the book exposes the harms of being shortlisted—i.e. qualified for a position but not selected from a list that creates the appearance of diversity but preserves the status quo. This phenomenon often occurs with any pursuit of professional advancement, whether the judge in the courtroom, the CEO in the corner office, or the coach on the playing field. Women, and especially female minorities, regularly find themselves equally or more capable than the other candidates on the shortlist, but far less likely to be chosen. Drawing from surprising revelations about the women profiled, the book concludes with concrete strategies for moving from shortlisted to selected.