PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — The pay gap between women and men for the same work is one of the biggest issues the nation faces, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor told a crowd Wednesday at Brown University in Rhode Island.
Sotomayor spoke to hundreds of students and others assembled in a gymnasium on the Ivy League campus, spending most of the talk roaming among them as she answered their questions.
One Brown student asked the justice what she considers the top challenges women now face. Sotomayor said the challenges haven't changed from when she was growing up.
"Women doing the same work still earn less than men. You can't fight the facts," she said. "Pay equality is one of the biggest issues our nation faces."
"When I started, (law) firms of 300 and 400 had one or two female partners, and they were touting how progressive they were. What a joke, right?" she continued. "They told me that over time, we would reach equality. Well, I started in 1979, and there's still only one-third women as federal judges, and we're a lot of women in the profession. So, what's happening?"
An Associated Press analysis of President Donald Trump's judicial nominees in November found that 81 percent of them were men.
Sotomayor was not asked about Trump and did not bring up the Republican president. But one student asked her about political polarization and how everyday Americans can "fight for truth in an era of misinformation."
"So many people start fighting about the facts, and the importance of the facts, as opposed to the importance of the principles that are motivating the discussion," she said. "You got to get back to that before you can get to facts."
She said understanding the other side's guiding principles is the beginning of compromise, although compromise isn't always possible on the Supreme Court.
"When it's big, big constitutional issues there are really big, big differences in how justices view the guiding principles," she said. "That's why we end up dissenting from one another, because we have a different view of what's important to protect."
Sotomayor became the first Hispanic and third woman on the nation's highest court when President Barack Obama appointed her in 2009.
She stopped and took pictures with every student who asked her a question and with two grade school-aged girls who wore custom shirts bearing pictures of Sotomayor and the other two female justices: Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Elena Kagan. The shirts read "Squad Goals."