A casual look around the room at any major mediation conference will quickly confirm that women and minorities are still significantly under represented. It may be a long slow journey to create more representative panels worldwide, but one that is well worth taking.
According to the ABA in April 2016, nearly half of all law degrees issued in the United States in the previous academic year were to women. However, if you look at elite law firms, only 18 percent of the partners at the top 200 firms are women. Within that same environment the numbers of Black, Latino and Asian partners represent an even smaller percentage Few statistics are available to identify how many mediators in the U.S. are women or from an individual ethnic group, but it is safe to assume that they likely parallel the statistics in the elite law firms.
In an area of law where nuance and creativity are most highly valued, including more women and more people from different cultural backgrounds can only enhance the success of mediations. Creative problem solving, the ability to leverage different types of communications styles and a real sensitivity to important cultural issues are among the most important skill sets a mediator or arbitrator bring to a case.
The pool of neutrals available to hear cases should more closely reflect the demographics of the population they serve; this is one of the most important ways to ensure successful resolution of cases and the ongoing growth of mediation as a dispute resolution tool. Training and developing a younger, more diverse group of mediators is one of the best ways to ensure that mediation continues to grow as a conflict resolution tool.
ADR providers like JAMS and others recognize the importance of increased diversity among ADR practitioners. They have challenged law firms, corporations and legal organizations to consider women and ethnically diverse neutrals, track their firms’ neutral selection process to measure progress and provide resources to diverse professionals on preparing for a successful career in ADR. Finally they encourage their clients to consider diversity in their selection of ADR professionals.