New poll looks at women in arbitration

This week, Kluwer Arbitration Blog posted the results of its inaugural poll, which takes a look at the reasons behind the long-standing under-representation of women in arbitration. The poll asked participants to rate three potential reasons:

  • Generational issues: today’s top female arbitrators and arbitration law firm partners graduated at a time when proportionally fewer women entered legal practice
  • Party appointment system that enforces the status quo by favoring an elite handful of repeat players
  • Time demands: the hours and travel can be incompatible with having a family

Interestingly, both genders and all age categories ranked the “party appointment” issue highest. The post includes the following speculations about why this might be the case:

First, party appointment is an issue that is quite specific to arbitration and that has been widely-discussed within the community, including in journals and academic publications (see here and here for recent articles specifically addressing the appointment issue with respect to women).  Second, while not intractable, it will remain a tough issue as long as party appointment remains a cornerstone of arbitration.  Third, it doesn’t only affect women.  Whole continents of arbitrators remain under-represented, and any aspiring arbitrator trying to break into the business must confront this barrier.  And fourth, it’s possible the party appointment dilemma garnered more sympathy from our participants because it is viewed as a factor that is beyond the control of the individual.  One can argue that the Time Demands dilemma is ultimately a matter of personal choice or lifestyle; it isn’t an innate barrier.  In contrast, it’s a bit harder to construe exclusion from appointment to arbitral panels as the consequence of a “lifestyle choice.”

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