The statistics for women in ADR are profoundly discouraging and show that much effort is needed for women to achieve parity in the profession.
A study published in the ABA Dispute Resolution Magazine found that women served as arbitrators in only 18% of cases overall. The only subject matters that exceed that 18% baseline are family, employment, consumer, and small claims. A recent Law.com article reported that "in business disputes last year, AAA reported that 22 percent of arbitrators selected were either a woman or a minority." The ABA study demonstrated that women mediators do not fare much better: They were mediators in only 25% of cases with more than $100,000 in dispute, and only 23% when more than $1,000,000 was in controversy. According to statistics provided by JAMS and reported by Law.com, only 25 percent of JAMS neutrals are women and only 7 percent are minorities. The issue is more than just gender parity, as important as that is; the imbalance impacts the fairness of the process. As the Law.com article notes, the "lack of diversity alters the dynamics in arbitration, and possibly the outcomes ... There can be a subtle disconnect, an awkward language barrier, lack of trust – even naked biases."
The ABA Section of Dispute Resolution's Committee on Women in Dispute Resolution (WIDR) is working to change these outcomes. We need your help. WIDR has created a WIDR Directory of Neutrals – please pass this along to your friends and colleagues to help us promote diversity in dispute resolution!