The Equal Representation for Expert Witnesses (ERE) Pledge has been launched to drive, on an equal opportunity basis, an increase in the number of women appointed as expert witnesses in dispute resolution procedures worldwide. The ERE Pledge’s objective is to achieve a fair representation of women as experts as soon as practically possible, with the ultimate goal of gender parity.
Discussing the launch, and the ERE Pledge’s raison d’être, Co-Founder and AlixPartners Managing Director Kathryn Britten commented:
“Having acted as an expert witness in major commercial disputes for almost 30 years, I have been consistently shocked by how few women have been appointed as my opposing experts – yet I have consistently seen very capable women producing excellent work as ‘Number 2’. We need to do something to ensure that talented women have the opportunity to act as expert witnesses in their own right.”
Co-Founder and AlixPartners Managing Director Isabel Kunsman added:
“As an expert witness, I am acutely aware of the need to do more in my own profession. There are many impressive women working in this field but the higher up the ranks you go, the lower the number of women you see, particularly among testifying expert witnesses.”
Above left to right: Kathryn Britten and Isabel Kunsman
In 2020, curious to assess the landscape and attribute some concrete figures to this issue, Kathryn and Isabel, through AlixPartners, commissioned a survey. From the results, they discovered that 56% of arbitrators and lawyers had seen no women in expert roles in the last three years, while only 1% had seen four or more women in expert roles in the same period.
Analysis of ICSID awards from 2016 to 2020 also showed that, out of 75 awards, only 3% included female experts. This percentage was even lower than the percentage included in the PwC/Queen Mary Survey published in 2020, which showed that 11% of the 180 awards in arbitral proceedings administered by the ICC in Paris and New York between 2014 and 2018 included female experts.
While this all made for disappointing reading, in sharing these statistics, Kathryn and Isabel have been encouraged by members of the international arbitration community to increase the visibility of gender disparity in arbitration expert testimony, and such members have offered their support to promote the representation of testifying women experts in arbitration.
Over the last six months, the Co-Founders have been engaging with various members of the international arbitration and litigation community to discuss an initiative to address the scarcity of female expert witnesses in litigation and arbitration. As part of the initiative, they have been working with other experts, lawyers and interested parties, to create a pledge – similar to the Equal Representation in Arbitration (ERA) Pledge – to drive a commitment to create equal opportunities for female expert witnesses in all areas of dispute resolution.
The Co-Founders’ efforts to engage the community have already seen results and have achieved significant milestones to date: First, the formal launch of the ERE Pledge itself on a new website, and second, the creation of a Steering Committee for the ERE Pledge to promote it, gather advice and perspectives, and implement additional ideas to address the scarcity of testifying female expert witnesses.
Isabel commented: “We are ensuring that the Steering Committee features members from across the consulting firms active in the litigation and arbitration space, and we now have representatives from many leading consultancies and accounting firms.”
Kathryn added: “We are both thrilled that senior members of ArbitralWomen, the ERA Pledge, and leading arbitral bodies have also already agreed to join the Global Steering Committee.”
The Co-Founders strongly believe that for the ERE Pledge to succeed it must be nurtured across firms, generations, and geographies.
In summary, the goals of the ERE Pledge are to:
- increase, on an equal opportunity basis, the number of women appearing as testifying experts, in order to achieve proportional representation and eventually full parity;
- support the hiring, mentoring, and promotion of female experts;
- create a coalition of supporters and advocates for female testifying experts in the world of dispute resolution;
- encourage women to aspire to be expert witnesses in their chosen professions;
- widen the pool of expert witnesses available and help to promote the visibility of the qualifications of female expert witnesses.
Read the commentary to the Pledge.
And finally, a message from the ERE Pledge team – please contact us with your ideas and/or questions regarding the ERE Pledge.
Submitted by ArbitralWomen Members and ERE Pledge Co-Founders Kathryn Britten and Isabel Kunsman