Gender diversity in arbitral tribunals on the rise, report reveals

Out-Law News | 13 Aug 2020 | 8:51 am | 1 min. read

The proportion of women appointed as arbitrators has nearly doubled in the past four years, according to a new report.

The Report of the International Council for Commercial Arbitration (ICCA) Cross-Institutional Task Force on Gender Diversity in Arbitral Appointments and Proceedings (227 page / 3.9MB PDF) showed that the proportion of female arbitrators in institutional commercial arbitrations has almost doubled over the past four years.

This was driven largely by the efforts of arbitral institutions to appoint more female arbitrators.  As a result, in 2019, women comprised 34% of arbitrators appointed by arbitral institutions. Party appointments of female arbitrators have risen from 9% in 2015 to 14% last year, while co-arbitrator appointments have more than doubled, from 10% to 22%.

International arbitration expertMohammed Talib of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law, said: “There has been sustained effort by the arbitration community through the Equal Representation in Arbitration pledge and other work by arbitral institutions to improve diversity. The work and report of the cross-institutional task force show progress in gender inclusiveness."

That does not hide that there is still much work to be done, in particular by law firms, to promote all types of diversity and inclusion of within the arbitration community,” Talib said. "Pinsent Masons is a signatory of the Equal Representation in Arbitration Pledge."

The report identified a number of barriers to increasing the number of female arbitrators, including the retention of women in private legal practice, the insufficient promotion of women to senior ranks within businesses, the lack of opportunities for women to gain relevant experience and reputation among users of international arbitration, as well as unconscious bias.

It highlighted tools available to arbitration users to address unconscious bias and promote gender diversity in arbitral tribunals, including training, databases of qualified female candidates for counsel to choose from and opportunities for qualified women to promote their credentials.

Talib said: “The 2019 Pinsent Masons QMUL International Arbitration Survey, which focused particularly on construction arbitration, identified that only 17% of respondents considered the diversity of the resulting tribunal when making arbitral appointments – including diversity of age, gender, country of origin, and legal or educational background. This is an area where the arbitration community can do better.”

The ICCA established the task force last year, bringing together 24 representatives of arbitral institutions and leading practitioners.