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Women in arbitration: seminar with Cherie Booth QC and Mahnaz Malik

On 1 May 2013 Hogan Lovells, in collaboration with ArbitralWomen, hosted an evening seminar with Cherie Booth CBE QC of Matrix Chambers and Mahnaz Malik of 20 Essex Street in celebration of their recent designation to the ICSID panel of arbitrators and the continuing progress in the appointment of women in prominent roles within the international dispute resolution field.

In view of the fact that just over a quarter of the 46 recent state designations to the ICSID panel were women, they also shared their views on whether these numbers represents progress for women in arbitration or whether they are an indication that the arbitration community still has some way to go in recognising the talented women in the profession, and what can be done to redress the balance.

In what was a very frank and open discussion, Cherie and Mahnaz highlighted the particular challenges with respect to diversity in the international dispute resolution field, such as the small pool of regularly appointed arbitrators and barriers to entry this creates for those outside of that group. They encouraged law firms, arbitral institutions and users of arbitration to take simple but effective practical steps, such as actively considering and suggesting more female candidates for appointment, in order to ensure better representation of women at the top of the profession.

Cherie and Mahnaz also commented on other topical issues in the field of international investment arbitration, including the question of the separation between ‘the bar and the bench’ and whether arbitrators in the investment arbitration field must necessarily be ‘pro-State’ or ‘pro-investor’.  On the latter point, both speakers saw the merit of not being tied to one camp: it is essential for any arbitrator to have had experience of both sides.