You’ve come a long way baby! Remember that long ago slogan? Have women really come a long way?
Women make up 50 percent of law school graduates but only 15 percent of equity partners in Am Law 200 law firms. According to the 2010 Catalyst Consensus, companies surveyed report that women hold 17.7 percent of senior office positions. I provide the law firm and business numbers because arbitrators and mediators include both lawyers and non-lawyers. Women who are equity partners and senior business leaders will surely be successful arbitrators and mediators.
However, a recent study by Gus Van Harten reports the dearth of women arbitrators appointed to resolve investment treaty cases. He reported that of the 631 arbitrator appointments in investment treaty cases through May 2010, only 41 were women (6.5 percent of all appointments). The number of women who are arbitrators and mediators has increased, but based on anecdotal evidence, they are not being selected to serve on cases in proportionate numbers. The full study is available in the February 2012 issue of Columbia FDI Perspectives, http://www.vcc.columbia.edu/content/fdi-perspectives.
This bar year, the Section of Dispute Resolution established a Task Force on Women in Dispute Resolution (WIDR). One of the goals of the task force is to undertake a survey to determine the frequency women are appointed as neutrals, the types of cases they resolve, and what motivates the selection of a woman. The goal is not only to collect the information and report the findings, but also to raise consciousness about considering women when determining who to select to resolve a dispute.
The articles in the spring issue of Dispute Resolution Magazine focus on gender in negotiation. Professor Carrie Menkel-Meadow broadens the discussion to include the differences that gender makes to parties and lawyers as well as dispute resolvers. She concludes that gender differences may be relevant but when added to other factors when selecting a neutral, may not be as determinative as we would like to believe. Susan Coleman and Dorothy Weaver review the literature written about women and negotiation. They highlight how gender may help or hinder negotiations and offer suggestions to improve negotiation skills. Deborah Rothman writes on gender diversity in arbitrator selection, offering several explanations for the dearth of women on commercial arbitration panels. Gina Miller offers women practical tips on building a practice as a neutral. She includes probing questions to help develop a business plan and focus networking activities. Joe Garrison reports on perceived differences in arbitrators and mediators that are related to being a man or woman. He discusses gender management styles, how women are evolving in the business, and that as more women break the glass ceiling, there will be a commensurate increase in confidence in women as decision makers resolving disputes.
All of these articles will stretch your mind and push you to think about being more inclusive the next time you are selecting or recommending a dispute resolver. However, what can women do to speed up the process? I suggest that there are a few things that we, as women, can do that will make a difference to be successful dispute resolution professionals.
First, be yourself. When I first entered the job market, I went to an interview with a bow tie finishing my business suit. The interviewer quickly disabused me of the fact that I had to dress like a man to get the job. Find your own style or voice. It is a mistake to be like a man or be someone you are not. Your natural style will lead you to success by increasing your confidence and demonstrate your authenticity.
Second, use your communications skills. Women are natural communicators. They excel at developing relationships and building networks. Don’t be shy about exploiting your network and showcasing your capabilities. No one will tout your horn better than you.
Third, help others. In some employment sectors, women are perceived to undermine other women and sabotage their efforts. Women should promote other women.
Fourth, be a leader. Leaders engender trust and confidence. If we know one thing it is that mediators and arbitrators are selected because they are trusted to help the parties resolve a dispute. Demonstrating leadership builds that trust and confidence that will go a long way to your next selection.
Fifth, remember you are always interviewing for a new job. You never know who will recommend you for your next job. Always put your best foot forward, be sincere, and be natural.
Finally, take chances. Be confident in your skills and expertise. Sometimes to get ahead you may need to take chances before you think you are ready. Success after taking those chances is very gratifying.
Deborah Masucci is Chair of the American Bar Association Section of Dispute Resolution and Vice President of the Office of Dispute Resolution at Chartis. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.