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Claudia Salomon

President, ICC International Court of Arbitration

Quotation Marks
"Studies also show that diverse corporate teams are more profitable and more likely to create superior value"

Girl power: going beyond the slogans

Girl power: going beyond the slogans


Reflecting on International Women's Day, Claudia Salomon showcases the shift from slogans to tangible diversity actions in arbitration

On International Women’s Day, I had been thinking a lot about the concept of “girl power.”

The slogan—made popular in the 1990s by the British pop group, the Spice Girls, and the American punk band, Bikini Kill—focused on the importance of female friendship. Later it morphed into a rallying cry for more self-reliance and confidence, in songs such as Beyonce’s Run the World, or Miley Cyrus’ Flowers.

And yet, the celebration of women through t-shirts songs, or social media posts can feel more like marketing, rather than empowering women and addressing structural inequities.

At the International Court of Arbitration, which operates under the auspices of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), we have taken meaningful steps to move beyond slogans by implementing groundbreaking initiatives to expand diversity, equity, and inclusion in all aspects of dispute prevention and resolution.

As the world’s most preferred arbitral institution and having administered over 28,000 arbitrations to date, the ICC Court has a key role to play, as we lead from the front.

We recognize that diversity is key to the legitimacy of international arbitration. Representation of decision-makers is an essential element of the rule of law, and the global business community rightly expects the arbitration community to reflect their diversity and values.

Studies also show that diverse corporate teams are more profitable and more likely to create superior value. With regard to arbitration specifically, surveys show that greater diversity affects the perception of arbitrators’ independence and impartiality and the overall quality of decision making.

This recognition did not start when I became the first woman to serve as the President of the ICC Court in its 100-year history.

30 years ago, recognizing that the global reach of arbitration was increasing - but the representation of women in the field was not, a pioneering group of women internationally formed ArbitralWomen to try to reverse the trend by establishing a network supporting the career development of women in arbitration and alternative dispute resolution (ADR).

And since 2015, over 5,000 individuals have signed the Equal Representation in Arbitration (ERA) Pledge, aiming to improve the profile and representation of women in arbitration and their appointment as arbitrator on an equal opportunity basis.

Credit must also go to my predecessor, Alexis Mourre, who in 2018 dared to insist on gender parity in the ICC Court. The significance of this change cannot be understated, given that women comprised only 10 per cent of the Court in 2015.

Today, there are more women on the court than men. It is also more geographically diverse, with 195 members from 120 different countries and a larger representation of African members than ever before.

ICC has also reached gender parity of speakers at our events, both regionally and worldwide. It was not so long ago that international arbitration conferences consisted mainly of all-male panels, what was jokingly known as “manels.”

Gender diversity among speakers ensures that women have more opportunities and visibility in this highly competitive field. Women rely on and benefit from same-gender role models. So when they see other women in leadership roles, they are more likely to have the confidence to pursue such positions.

The ICC Court has also made significant strides in increasing gender diversity in arbitrator appointments: approximately 40 per cent of arbitrator appointments by the ICC Court are women, up from 12 per cent a decade ago.

Yet we still have work to do. The ICC Court appoints only about one in four arbitrators, as the parties themselves select how the rest are chosen. And women are much less likely to be appointed as arbitrators when nominated by the parties or by the co-arbitrators in nominating the president of the arbitral tribunal.

To increase arbitrator diversity, it will be important for the parties to insist that their outside counsel provide diverse lists of arbitrators to consider. In-house counsel and outside counsel have a crucial role to play in ensuring that arbitrators in ICC cases reflect the increasing diversity of the global business community.

For this reason, the ICC Court has also recently introduced standard language in its model letters to parties and co-arbitrators, encouraging diversity when nominating arbitrators. The ICC Court will generally not appoint the same individual as arbitrator again for 12 months. And to increase transparency and the flow of information, it also maintains a freely accessible directory of ICC arbitral tribunals.

We are always focused on finding the best arbitrator for the case. With so many talented and experienced women arbitrators, the suggestion that increasing the number of women is at the expense of quality is nonsense.

The ICC Court Secretariat did not have its first woman counsel until the 1990s. Now, the majority of our team is comprised of women, including those in leadership roles as Deputy Secretary General, Managing Counsel, Counsel, and Regional Directors, who continually shape the landscape of arbitration and uphold the highest standards of professionalism and integrity.

In the broader ICC, there is now gender parity between the ICC Institute on World Business Law Council and the ICC Commission on Arbitration and ADR leadership.

While attention has been on gender diversity, we are also determined to address a broader definition of diversity, including people with disabilities and the LGBTQIA+ community.

Building on our earlier efforts on diversity, equity, and inclusion in all aspects of dispute prevention and resolution, we recently released a Guide on Disability Inclusion in International Arbitration and ADR. This paves the way for more disability inclusion initiatives. Produced by the ICC Commission on Arbitration and ADR, this publication provides actionable guidance to practitioners, arbitrators, arbitral institutions, and associations. In particular, it aims to advance disability inclusion within the field of dispute resolution by providing specific recommendations and checklists along with other practical tools.

We also expanded the award-winning ICC LGBTQIA+ network, which had been open to ICC Court members since its establishment in 2021, to anyone in the dispute resolution and prevention community.

And we launched the Hold the Door Open initiative, which enables young arbitration practitioners from Africa to observe arbitration hearings and get opportunities to learn more about the arbitration process.

Each of these initiatives further our pledge in the ICC Declaration on the Future of Dispute Resolution and Prevention, which we launched last year to mark the Centenary of the ICC Court, to build on our ground-breaking work on diversity, equity and inclusion in all aspects of dispute prevention and resolution, including all stakeholders in the process.

As the first woman president of the ICC Court, I stand on the shoulders of those who came before me, and the generations of women who helped blaze the trail for diversity, empowerment and recognition. And I am inspired by the words of U.S. Vice President, Kamala Harris, who said: “While I may be the first woman in this office, I will not be the last.”

Claudia Salomon is the President of the International Court of Arbitration of the International Chamber of Commerce.

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