Date of Award

Spring 2019

Document Type

Honors Thesis


Political Science

First Advisor

Ms. Sandy McKeown

Second Advisor

Dr. Julia Hellwege

Third Advisor

Ms. Wendy Hess


South Dakota Judiciary, Women, Political Ambition, Imposter Syndrome


The judicial branch is the only branch of government which has formal education requirements in South Dakota. Neither South Dakota’s executive branch nor legislative branch require any form of advanced education; however, the judiciary does require its judges have a law degree. As more women graduate law school, more women become competitive candidates for judicial positions. However, there exists a “gavel gap”, or an underrepresentation of females as judges in South Dakota. Women make up 49 percent of South Dakota’s state population and 34 percent of South Dakota’s attorney population; however, women only make up 19 percent of South Dakota’s state court judges. This paper examines South Dakota’s female attorneys and their perspective on their qualifications to determine if women harbor feelings of imposter syndrome which keeps South Dakota from seeing more women ascend to the bench. Through research into the differing perspectives of South Dakota’s female and male attorneys about how and when each feel qualified to seek judicial office, this paper aims to find a correlation between South Dakota’s gavel gap and an imposter gap between female attorneys, male attorneys, and their feelings of qualification.



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