Wolf von Kumberg FCIArb

Wolf von Kumberg FCIArb is a leading independent Arbitrator, Mediator and pioneer of early stage dispute resolution and conflict avoidance boards. He is a member of specialist International dispute resolution group Arbitra International, the Managing Director of Global Resolution Services - a provider of dispute resolution services, and the Registrar General and CEO of the International Dispute Registry (IDR) which specialises in mediation capacity building programs for States. He has extensive experience of disputes across Aviation & Aerospace, Defence, Investor/State, Compliance, IP, Cyber Security and High Tech Industries.

1. What influence have women played in your personal and professional development? What obstacles, in terms of gender, did you perceive these women faced?

I have witnessed the emergence of women playing an increasingly important role in the legal profession and as business managers throughout my own professional life. When I first studied law 40 years ago, women were still a minority in the legal profession. They had obstacles being admitted to read law, to get training contracts at law firms and to move into partnership roles. The same was true in my corporate experience as in-house counsel in several multi-national companies, where there were few women in middle management and none in senior management. The rate of change in both the legal and corporate world over the past 30 years has been astonishing and when I left corporate life the Chairman of my company, the General Counsel and Deputy General Counsel were all women. This however came at a price where many obstacles including prejudice, discrepancy in compensation, discrimination and sacrifices to family life had to be overcome. It was a struggle for many women colleagues which I witnessed first-hand.

2. What have you witnessed or experienced in terms of creating greater access to the legal profession for women, minorities and those traditionally underrepresented?

Today my perception is that women are admitted to read Law in larger numbers than males and that many of the Law professors are now female. This of course has an influence on attitudes in the profession from the regulatory side (Law Society) to the behaviour of law firms and companies that engage lawyers. Many companies today have diversity requirements for the law firms that they engage, be it in gender or minority based. This has forced law firms to review their own internal hiring and partnership practices. That is not to say that barriers do not still exist. There still exists unconscious, if not outright conscious, bias that creates an invisible barrier. This is particularly true in the ADR community where mediator and arbitrator selection is still often made on the basis of what are perceived as the “right” qualities for the candidates to have. This often leads to women and minorities being overlooked. This perception also leads to fewer women and minorities being interested in even training to become ADR neutrals.

3. What more can be done to break the bias? Who, how, where, when and in what ways can this be accomplished?

As I stated bias is both conscious and unconscious. We can do much to deal with conscious bias through training and education, policies, procedures and regulation. It is much more difficult to deal with unconscious bias as many people will not perceive that they have it, but because of upbringing, environment and social norms will behave in a way that creates barriers. Making people aware of unconscious bias requires each of us to look at the way we behave, confront decision making and formulate our opinions. It is more subtle and more difficult. The best way for institutions to address the issue is to ensure that they are internally representative of society as a whole, that their values and objectives meet this social mix and that their policies and procedures for staff and members encourages diversity and provides avenues for redress where this is not seen to be achieved. My own view having been with the CIArb for nearly 30 years is that as an institution it has progressed in a meaningful way to address diversity and to incorporate it into its culture. That is the most important place to start and build on that achievement.

The views expressed by the interviewees are their own and do not necessarily reflect the positions of CIArb and of the individuals or organisations associated with the initiative.