In recognition of the under-representation of women on international arbitral tribunals, in 2015 members of the arbitration community drew up a pledge to take action (the Pledge). The Pledge seeks to increase, on an equal opportunity basis, the number of women appointed as arbitrators in order to achieve a fair representation as soon practically possible, with the ultimate goal of full parity.
The final version of the text of the Pledge is the result of a collaborative effort between global representatives of corporate entities, states, arbitral institutions, arbitration practitioners – both counsel and arbitrators – and academics, drawn together by a Steering Committee.
The introductory paragraph of the Pledge sets out two general objectives:
The Steering Committee and those consulted discussed at length the possibility of setting a quota or target in this regard, but ultimately decided to adopt a more flexible standard acceptable to all stakeholders. The standard of ‘equal opportunity’ contemplates that arbitral appointments and other opportunities in the field of arbitration should be based on equal qualifications. The complementary standard of ‘fair representation’ is a flexible standard requiring a fact-specific determination. It accounts for the fact that what is considered ‘fair’ will inevitably change depending on the context of the opportunity. For example, ‘fair representation’ in the context of speaking opportunities on conference panels should today result in a higher female representation than arbitrator opportunities in certain high-stakes disputes.
The Pledge establishes concrete and actionable steps that the arbitration community can and must take towards achieving these general objectives and the ultimate goal of full parity. It is, however, acknowledged that in some cases, some stakeholders may not reasonably be able to carry out each and every commitment. For this reason, the words ‘wherever possible’ were introduced to preface each of the specific commitments.
Finally, it should be noted that those who conceived the Pledge did not intend to ignore or exclude other diversity initiatives. On the contrary, the Steering Committee and those consulted are supportive of all efforts to increase diversity in all its forms in the field of arbitration. The Pledge aspires to be a first step in the direction of achieving more equal representation of all under-represented groups in our arbitration community.