Cross-Institutional report reflects advances in gender balance in arbitration

  • 29 July 2020

A cross-institutional task force, featuring ICC representation, has released an insightful report on gender diversity in arbitral appointments and proceedings

Reflecting the efforts of arbitral organisations to improve the representation of women in arbitration, the report is the eighth volume in a series of reports by the International Council for Commercial Arbitration (ICCA).

Established in 2019, the Cross-Institutional Task Force brings together representatives of 18 leading international arbitration institutions, law firms and gender diversity initiatives to publish and analyse statistics on the appointment of women arbitrators, as well as to identify opportunities and best practices to promote gender diversity in international arbitration.

ICC Court Secretary General Alexander G. Fessas said:

“ICC recognises the importance and benefits of gender balance in arbitration and is pleased to have contributed to this prominent report. It is encouraging to see progress being made on this issue but there is clearly more work to be done. We are one of the first institutions to sign the Equal Representation in Arbitration Pledge, we have achieved full gender parity at the ICC Court since 2018 and appointed and confirmed a total of 312 women arbitrators in 2019. ICC remains committed, as a pioneering arbitral institution, to accelerating progress in this area.

Reflecting these advances, ICC’s full dispute resolution statistical report for 2019, published earlier this month reveals that while the ICC Court generally appoints 25% to 30% of all arbitrators, the ICC Court appointed as many women arbitrators as the parties nominated: 131 women were party-nominated (42% of all women arbitrators), 134 women were appointed by the ICC Court (43% of all women arbitrators) and 45 women were nominated as president by co-arbitrators (14% of all women arbitrators).

In 2019, ICC saw 1,476 appointments and confirmations of arbitrators, marking two new ICC diversity records – geographic and gender – as the 972 individuals appointed or confirmed came from 89 countries while 21% of all arbitrators appointed or confirmed were women.

Gender balance improves

The new report reveals that gender diversity in arbitral tribunals is increasing, with the number of women arbitrators appointed to tribunals doubling in the past four years. This increase is largely the result of the efforts of arbitral institutions to appoint more female arbitrators. However, in 2019 women made up just over 21% of arbitrator appointees, underlining the need for improvement in the field. The report argues that the greatest opportunity for such improvement lies with parties and the counsel that represent them, noting that while 34% of institutional appointments and 21.5% of co-arbitrator appointments were women in 2019, only 13.9% of party-appointments were women. In addition to the social and moral obligation to address gender discrimination as part of the dispute resolution field’s broader commitment to sustainable development, gender diversity in arbitral tribunals can enhance the legitimacy of arbitration, as well as improve its procedures and outcomes.

The cross-institutional task force report also highlights potential barriers to diversity, as well as tools available to arbitration users to improve gender diversity in arbitral tribunals. These tools include: databases of qualified female candidates for counsel to choose from; advice on addressing unconscious bias; ways in which clients and funders can require diversity in international arbitration; opportunities for qualified women to promote and market their credentials; advice for less experienced female lawyers who wish to progress their careers; and advice for employers on how to grow and promote their female talent.

ICC Special Counsel Mireze Philippe said:

“From several sources, this pioneering report pulls together broad ranging information to provide a clear picture of gender balance in arbitration today, including data on the number of women arbitrators to the range of initiatives in place to promote women practitioners. Furthermore, the report also addresses issues of unconscious bias and the barriers women arbitrators can face in their careers. Most importantly, it provides practical tips on how to address gender diversity and overcome these biases.”

Speaking to the collaboration of the Cross-Institutional Task Force Chair Carolyn Lamm said:

“I applaud the outstanding work of the Task Force including the leading arbitral institutions worldwide, the Pledge, ArbitralWomen, Three Crowns, White & Case, Freshfields, ICCA and so many others who collaborated to prepare what is a first comprehensive Report of its kind on the progress of women in international arbitration- and which shares a vision for how we move forward. I am tremendously grateful for everyone’s efforts and am confident the Report will make a difference on this issue of importance.”

Along with the ICC Court the Cross-Institutional Task Force includes representatives of the following organisations: ArbitralWomen; the American Bar Association (ABA); Burford Capital; the Equal Representation in Arbitration Pledge (ERA); Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer LLP; the German Arbitration Institute (DIS); the Hong Kong International Arbitration Centre (HKIAC); the International Bar Association (IBA); the International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID); the International Council for Commercial Arbitration (ICCA); the International Centre for Dispute Resolution (ICDR); the London Court of International Arbitration (LCIA); the Stockholm Chamber of Commerce (SCC); Three Crowns LLP; the University of Sydney; the Vienna International Arbitral Centre (VIAC); and White & Case LLP.

Read the Cross-Institutional Task Force on Gender Diversity in Arbitral Appointments and Proceedings Report.