Join us in celebrating International Women’s Day 2023 #EmbraceEquity

Equity is about ensuring everyone is treated fairly and is intrinsic to the concept of justice.

Catherine Dixon, Ciarb’s Director General says, “Treating everyone fairly and giving access to opportunities considering needs, is the fundamental requirement for achieving equity. Although the number of Ciarb women members has increased, we do not yet have gender parity with men. We are committed to taking steps to improve the diversity of our members, for our appointments, at our events and to grant fair access to our training considering individual needs. Ciarb is supporting initiatives that promote greater gender parity and fairness in our sector. Most recently, on 28 February 2023, we attended the launch of Women in Adjudication and signed the Equal Representation in Adjudication pledge. We are also signatories of the Equal Representation in Arbitration (ERA) pledge and the Equal Representation of Expert Witnesses (ERE) pledge.

“On this International Women’s Day, if you believe, as I do, in forging an equal and inclusive world, reach out to your female colleagues and recommend membership of Ciarb’s global community. Make the shift to gender equity and together we can create fairness for all.

“Let’s #embraceequity together! Happy International Women’s Day.”

Leading voices in ADR will join us on 8 March to reflect on what equity means to them and share their experiences of equity in their professional and personal lives. The panel will also discuss and explore the adjustments we all need to make to embed and embrace gender equity.

Amb. (r) David Huebner C.Arb FCIArb and Janey Milligan LL.M, FRICS, FCIArb share their thoughts on #EmbraceEquity with us.

David Huebner has more than 30 years’ experience as an arbitrator and advocate in international, investment and complex commercial arbitrations. He is a Fellow of the College of Commercial Arbitrators, a Chartered Arbitrator, and has been named to numerous distinguished practitioner lists, including SVAMC’s “Tech List” of the world’s most accomplished technology neutrals.

How has equity for women changed over the last decade in ADR?
In terms of presence and representation, there has certainly been progress, with women leading major arbitration institutions and appearing with increasing frequency on panels and as sole arbitrators. That progress should be celebrated and reinforced.

Equity, though, is the quality of being fair and impartial. It’s not about exceptional women succeeding more often than in the past. It’s about women of all levels of skill succeeding to a similar degree as comparably skilled men. It’s about removing the XY chromosome pairing as an overt qualification or unconscious enhancement. Seen through that lens, our sector has much work yet to do.

What have we learned as a sector?
Perhaps not as much as we should have by 2023, frankly. We have certainly learned that external pressure from consumers of our services cannot be resisted or defused. We have also learned that it is in our best interests to empower and celebrate – not marginalize or extrude – colleagues who push for change. Those are important steps forward and make me optimistic.

What do we still need to work on?
Under-representation and exclusion are not just the product of situational choices but of structural, process, finance, and control systems that lead to cultivation and advancement of certain kinds of people rather than others. Therefore, we should approach inclusiveness as fundamentally an engineering challenge which, like any engineering project, may involve not only redesign but some demolition. Certain precincts of our sector get that, thankfully. Others still do not.

Second, we should increasingly focus on “full spectrum” equity in our inclusiveness work. Allowing diversity to be sliced and diced, compartmentalized and prioritized, would slow progress for everyone, in part by inhibiting or distorting necessary structural change. Avoiding or postponing action on diversity axes perceived to be less convenient or less commercially advantageous than others risks inflecting any new infrastructure and culture with its own, no less harmful, strains of exclusionary bias.

Third, it is important that we increase our focus on intersectionality. In my home country, for example, it took us more than 4 decades to progress from Sandra Day O’Connor to Ketanji Brown Jackson on our Supreme Court. We need to acknowledge the degree to which layers of “difference” can impact one’s prospects in our own sector.

It has been accurately observed that Ginger Rogers did everything Fred Astaire did … but backwards and in high heels … and for less money. There remains much to be done to put that dynamic to rest in the ADR sector, but we should certainly celebrate the progress that is already being made.

Janey Milligan is an experienced quantity surveyor, qualified adjudicator, arbitrator and expert witness. She is managing director of Construction Dispute Resolution and director of the Scottish Arbitration Centre. Janey has extensive experience in construction contracts and advises stakeholders across the construction industry.

What does equity in your professional life mean to you?
Equity to me means being fair and impartial to all individuals who have something to offer the profession. It means valuing individuals’ contributions regardless of their backgrounds. It is hugely important to be receptive to everyone’s views. Varied and different experiences bring a more informed perspective to the construction industry and the decision-making community; be it arbitration, adjudication, or other ADR methods.

What would you like to see done to embrace equity in adjudication?
Enable visibility with and to under-represented groups. In the case of gender equity, that means ensuring women are always represented in presentations, at conferences, in journals and other forums. This principle applies to all under-represented groups.

  • Career path routes should be more transparent. So too should be the process of getting on to adjudication panels. There is a view that panels are almost inaccessible for everyone, not just underrepresented groups. We need to tackle that perception by using positive examples and by the industry recognising and promoting role models.
  • Flexible buddying and mentoring programmes for people starting out in adjudication would also be helpful.

What can people do/or what have you seen done that shows equity in real life?
In my view preconceived judgments is a significant area that needs to be tackled – the issue of unconscious bias. Raising awareness of unconscious bias, education and helping us all to understand how easy it is to unintentionally err would be of great benefit.

We all need to be proactive in our everyday behaviours. It’s not just about making declarations on diversity and inclusion - it is also about continually actioning positive moves and demonstrating support for diversity. Being a quantity surveyor, I have worked in a male-dominated world all my professional life. Moving into arbitration and adjudication, there are even fewer women involved and that is without taking into account other protected characteristic. On a positive note, I have seen more willingness for disputing parties to engage diverse panels in their tribunals.

How can we achieve more equity in the ADR profession?
Focus Groups, educating and campaigning. Encouraging businesses to have inclusion policies.

Positive steps should be taken to attract more individuals from underrepresented groups. We need to build awareness and understanding of dispute resolution as an attainable career goal.

Although adjudication and arbitration tend to be careers taken up in later life due to the time needed to qualify and gain the necessary experience, it is important to recognise that the primary professions, particularly in technical areas, are already less popular career choices for under-represented groups. Increased efforts to encourage school age and university students to view dispute resolution as a career would assist in increasing the numbers into the profession.