Empowering Women in ADR: Launch of the AAA-ICDR Women Panelist Resource Group

Posted on: Tue, 03/19/2024

By: Kendal Enz

The American Arbitration Association-International Center for Dispute Resolution® (AAA-ICDR
®) recently launched its Women Panelist Resource Group, an initiative designed to enhance the role of women in alternative dispute resolution (ADR). The program will cultivate a supportive community that provides training, mentorship and networking opportunities to panelists and aspiring panelists who identify as women. In addition, it will promote growth, build community and support and highlight excellence among female panelists.

The creation of the group was spearheaded by AAA panelists Diana Kruze, Saloni Mavani and Sasha S. Philip, who recognized the distinctive challenges confronting women in ADR. Highlighting the prevailing expectation for arbitrators to be predominantly male, Mavani emphasized the group’s mission to normalize the presence of skilled female arbitrators and mediators, challenging and changing norms. “In my experience as an attorney, women are very much underrepresented...it’s so important that there be opportunities or some effort to create more access for women as arbitrators and mediators,” Mavani said.

The AAA-ICDR Women Panelist Resource Group will break down the barriers women arbitrators face by offering specialized programming, networking events and a mentorship program. These initiatives will enhance the professional capabilities of women panelists and establish a culture where their expertise is recognized and valued based on merit rather than gender.

Addressing the isolation often felt by arbitrators, Mavani emphasized the importance of creating a collegial environment. “Arbitration can be a lonely space...One of our main goals is to give women arbitrators a safe space to bounce ideas off one another.” As Kruze added, the pandemic has only intensified this isolation, making supportive networks more critical than ever for professional success and satisfaction.

Mentorship is a fundamental element of the group’s strategy, pairing emerging female panelists with experienced professionals. The mentorship program will facilitate personal and professional development, encouraging an environment of exchange and learning. Kruze noted the pressing need to support new panelists through the complexities of arbitration, ensuring they are well-equipped to excel from the outset. “There is a great need to support our newest panelists with mentors that have experience and who can walk them through the process of being the new kid on the block while simultaneously providing exceptional client service,” she said.

Echoing this sentiment, Philip highlighted the mentorship program’s role in demystifying the arbitration process for newcomers, from scheduling preliminary hearings to handling complex legal disputes. Mavani cited the opaque nature of arbitration, noting that with the guidance of seasoned professionals, newcomers can navigate hurdles more effectively, paving the way for a more inclusive and accessible ADR landscape.

“A good mentor will convert into your biggest cheerleader,” Kruze said, illustrating how mentors can become vital advocates for their mentees within the ADR community.

The group also advocates for diversity of thought, recognizing the invaluable contributions that disparate perspectives bring to problem-solving and decision-making in dispute resolution. Philip underscored the benefits to businesses and the broader ADR field that stem from a varied panelist roster.

As the AAA-ICDR Women Panelist Resource Group begins its work, its founders are focused on creating a supportive and inclusive community by encouraging a culture of collaboration and excellence among women in ADR. The primary goal of the AAA-ICDR Women Panelist Resource Group, as Philip puts it, is “to uplift all of us, to improve our service to clients and to enhance the AAA.”

For those interested in joining or learning more about the AAA-ICDR Women Panelist Resource Group, please visit the AAA-ICDR Women Panelist Resource Group webpage.