Tell us about the key initiatives that have been keeping you busy?
As you know the North America Branch hosted its annual conference in Houston recently and that took up an enormous amount of time, so I am enjoying a short breather now before I turn my attention to the next NAB annual conference which will take place in Washington DC in April 2018. Then the NAB is hosting the CIArb Congress in Atlanta in November 2018. I am seriously considering diversifying into event planning!
Another initiative that I have been involved with this year is the preparation of an “Unconscious Bias Toolkit”. This is an ArbitralWomen initiative which has been generously funded by the American Arbitration Association. The toolkit will enable ArbitralWomen to deliver training to lawyers and arbitrators on how to address unconscious bias against promoting minority actors in our field.
You have been heavily involved in promoting diversity in arbitration. What are the key developments in this area?
As a global community, we lag significantly behind the curve in relation to diversity generally. I have been very involved in addressing diversity issues in relation to the under-representation of women in our field, although I am conscious that there are wider issues relating to lack of diversity which also need addressing.
In relation to the under-representation of women, I was part of the Steering Committee for the Equal Representation in Arbitration Pledge which launched in 2015. This was the first global initiative to address the significant under-representation of women in international arbitration.
Signatories to the Pledge commit to increase, on an equal opportunity basis, the number of women appointed as arbitrators, with a view towards reaching the goal of full parity. We have been delighted with the response to the Pledge across the dispute resolution community and currently have over 1800 signatories to the Pledge.
Since the publication of my first major paper on this topic in 2010, it is gratifying to see such commitment to redressing the balance on international arbitration tribunals. Companies are not simply paying lip service to the Pledge but are taking their commitment towards addressing the imbalance on international arbitration tribunals seriously, which is encouraging.
In your opinion, what are the main barriers to getting better gender representation on international arbitration tribunals?
I believe the main barrier to women being appointed as international arbitrators is unconscious bias.
Gender stereotyping has been identified as one of the most powerful influences on decision making, particularly when considering women for leadership positions. The unconscious bias individuals have against appointing women as arbitrators cannot be understated and is one of the single most influential factors for the disparity between male and female representation on international arbitration tribunals.
Because men have traditionally dominated the arbitrator ‘bar’, choices for arbitrators are negatively affected by gender stereotyping, therefore female arbitrators face an additional barrier due to the strong job-specific association that exists.
However, it is important to remember that gender stereotyping affects male and female decision makers equally. Gender imbalance is not a ‘women’s issue’, in that women do not have a greater responsibility than men to act to redress the balance, it is a global issue.
I am excited about the possibility for change in this area and the enthusiasm with which initiatives such as the Pledge have been greeted.
What’s on the agenda for CIArb’s North America Branch?
Although the US has a thriving international arbitration scene, the CIArb is not well known across North America. As the new chair of the NAB, I want to increase the visibility of the CIArb and I plan to work closely with both the New York Branch and the soon to be formed Canadian Branch to achieve this.
I also want to increase the number of opportunities open to our members to network with each other at a chapter level. We are fortunate to have many active chapters in the branch and the executive board chapter liaison officer does a great job in keeping our chapters energized, but there is always more work to be done.
Tell us about your route to CIArb Fellowship?
I took a winding route to CIArb Fellowship. After joining Linklaters and qualifying as a solicitor in 1998 I was seconded to Linklaters’ Paris office to specialize in international arbitration. Knowing nothing about international arbitration at the time, I checked a copy of Redfern & Hunter out of the library and signed myself up for the CIArb Member course, which gave me a solid grounding in the subject.
I returned to London after three years focusing on arbitration in Paris and continued to act as counsel in a variety of international commercial arbitration matters before relocating to Houston in 2008 and joining the international arbitration team at Norton Rose Fulbright.
As part of my efforts to get to know people in the US, I revived my association with the CIArb and took the Fellowship course in Miami in 2010. I am a huge advocate of the Fellowship training and as soon as I had qualified as a Fellow I applied to be a member of the faculty delivering the Fellowship training across the US.
My first program as a tutor was in Las Vegas, which was a wonderfully surreal experience. Since then I have delivered training across the US and overseas, and met some terrific people as a result. Now that I practice on my own as an international arbitrator, I value those networks and enjoy the camaraderie of the training even more.
Houston or London?
What a choice! I was told when I moved to Houston that Houston is a hard place to be a tourist, but an easy place to live. I have certainly found this to be the case. It has a great quality of life in many ways and has been a wonderful place to bring up children.
I must admit that when I was at Norton Rose Fulbright I spent nine years commuting to work on the world’s largest freeway and I did feel the odd pang of nostalgia for the tube from time to time, strange as that may sound.
Now that I am freelance however, I can spend more time in England and increasingly I find that I can divide my time between the two cities, which suits me perfectly. On that basis, I am going to hedge my bets and say both.