Energy giants BP, ConocoPhillips and Shell are among the first corporates to sign up to a pledge for gender equality when selecting arbitrators launched by senior partners at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer and Boies, Schiller & Flexner.
The Equal Representation in Arbitration Pledge is a call for the international arbitration community to commit to increase the number of women appointed as arbitrators after decades of being dominated by older males.
In 2015, women accounted for just 16% of arbitrator appointments to London Court of International Arbitration (LCIA) run arbitrations. Women made up 71 of the 449 appointments last year, with the bulk of those coming from the LCIA itself, as party-appointed arbitrators continued to be male-dominated. Of the 208 appointments made by the parties in dispute, just 7% were women, compared to 28% female-male ratio when selected by the LCIA. Diversity is equally as poor, often worse, among other arbitral centres and often not reported.
A year-long in the making, the pledge is the brainchild of two of the arbitration community’s leading female names, Sylvia Noury of Freshfields and Wendy Miles QC of Boies Schiller. The pair will co-chair a 30-person steering committee overseeing the group’s progress, which includes BP’s assistant general counsel Joanne Cross and ConocoPhillips’ managing counsel Suzana Blades.
The pledge has attracted over 300 signatures since being launched on Friday, with Orange general counsel Isabelle Hautot, General Electric vice president and senior litigation counsel Bradford Berenson and vice chair of the European Central Bank’s review board, Concetta Brescia Morra, all signing up. Crucially, given their increasingly powerful role in determining who hears and decides upon disputes that end up in arbitration, a large number of arbitral institutions have also signed up, including the LCIA, the International Chamber of Commerce’s International Court of Arbitration and the Hong Kong International Arbitration Centre.
The pledge aims to ensure that:
• Committees, governing bodies and conference panels in the field of arbitration include a fair representation of women;
• Lists of potential arbitrators or tribunal chairs provided to or considered by parties, counsel, in-house counsel or otherwise include a fair representation of female candidates;
• States, arbitral institutions and national committees include a fair representation of female candidates on rosters and lists of potential arbitrator appointees;
• Where they have the power to do so, counsel, arbitrators, representatives of corporates, states and arbitral institutions appoint a fair representation of female arbitrators;
• Gender statistics for appointments (split by party and other appointment) are collated and made publicly available; and
• Senior and experienced arbitration practitioners support, mentor/sponsor and encourage women to pursue arbitrator appointments and otherwise enhance their profiles and practice.