Today’s post comes from Kim Taylor, JAMS senior vice president and COO. Working directly with the president and CEO, Ms. Taylor oversees the day-to-day operations for 23 JAMS resolution centers nationwide.
Despite the inroads women have made in many professions, their representation in the top ranks of the business world and legal field remains disappointingly low. According to statistics reported by the National Association of Women Lawyers (NAWL), women earn nearly 50 percent of all law school degrees, but only make up 15 percent of equity partners in AmLaw 200 law firms. As well, the average firm’s governing committee includes just one or two women. According to The Minority Corporate Counsel Association, women comprise only 20 percent of Fortune 500 general counsel. Catalyst, a nonprofit membership organization whose goal is to expand opportunities for women in business, reports that while women make up about 47 percent of the U.S. labor force, they hold just 16 percent of corporate officer positions in Fortune 500 companies, and only 16 percent of Fortune 500 board seats. American Bar Association studies published a few years ago reflect that only about 25 percent of United States district court judges were women.
Given that JAMS neutrals generally come from the ranks of the judiciary and a select group of attorneys with significant dispute resolution experience—most of whom have partner-level experience in top law firms—it is no wonder that women comprise only 20 percent of the JAMS panel. Despite this, we are committed to a diverse workplace and promoting diversity in the field of ADR. Minorities make up a third of the entire JAMS workforce, and 79 percent are women. We also focus on increasing the ranks of women and minority neutrals through concentrated recruiting efforts. In 2011, we added five women to our national panel.
The challenge we have identified is that qualified women neutrals are not selected as often as they -- or we -- would like, particularly in specialty practice areas that are dominated by men. For example, women tend to be selected more often in employment matters than securities litigation or intellectual property disputes. Whether this suggests a biased view that women aren’t “tough” enough to handle certain cases, or whether it reflects a choice about the background and experience of the mediator is hard to quantify. Ultimately, the decision about whom to hire as a mediator or arbitrator rests with counsel and their business clients. These decision makers—litigators, general counsel, business leaders—are overwhelmingly male, as noted above.
The good news is that women are selected about 20 percent of the time overall in both mediations and arbitrations, consistent with their representation on the panel. This suggests that women are receiving the same “share” of cases as their male counterparts.
More can and should be done to increase the ranks of women in the ADR profession. JAMS will continue to raise awareness about this issue with our clients and internal audience. We are committed to increasing the ranks of women and minority neutrals through concentrated recruiting efforts, and also by ensuring gender balance in all marketing efforts, providing support for those women who want to branch out into specialty areas that tend to be dominated by men, and by ensuring that the issue remains top of mind throughout the organization.
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