Submitted by Dana MacGrath and Ema Vidak Gojković
In March 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic was becoming a new reality for Europe and North America, ArbitralWomen member Ema Vidak Gojković came across the article The Pandemic’s Toll on Women: COVID-19 Is Gender-Blind, But Not Gender-Neutral by Melinda Gates suggesting that while we may feel “all in this together”, the consequences of the pandemic will not be the same for everyone: women’s professional lives will suffer more than men’s.
It was easy to see how her conclusion could prove true in the field of international arbitration. With the pandemic-created “social distance”, there was a real risk that women – already underrepresented on tribunals or in leadership / partner positions – would become more invisible and therefore fuel unconscious bias. Perhaps even more dangerously, women could lose ways to combat unconscious bias, such as by promoting one another. Losing visibility and solidarity sounded like a formidable blow for the progress achieved by women in international arbitration over the past decades.
In response, four ArbitralWomen members, Ema Vidak Gojković, Gaëlle Filhol, Catherine Anne Kunz and Claire Morel de Westgaver decided to launch Mute Off Thursdays – an online forum designed to help mid-level to senior women in arbitration exchange knowledge and remain connected to the arbitration community by hosting a Zoom call for 30 minutes each week, same day, same time (Thursdays at 9am ET), with whoever can join.
Each week, a different woman from the group, including many ArbitralWomen Board members and members, talk about an interesting arbitration topic. Sometimes, external speakers were brought in to provide training about soft skills. To keep control over the administrative work, the group was made “invitation only” with the aim to accept all women who qualified by experience. Mute Off Thursdays started in April 2020 with 42 women. As of April 15, 2021, on the occasion of its First Anniversary, the number of women participating in Mute Off Thursdays exceeds 500.
The founders of the original Mute Off Thursdays are immensely proud of the Mute Off community they have helped build and thank the incredible speakers over the past year who made it possible to stay “stronger together” during the pandemic by leading powerful and engaging discussions each Thursday since April 2020:
On Thursday, 15 April 2021, Mute Off Thursdays will celebrate its First Anniversary by hosting a special session about Imposter Syndrome & How to Overcome It with a star speaker – Dr. Valerie Young – an internationally recognized expert on impostor syndrome who regularly lectures on the topic and authored the award-winning book, “The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women”, in which she teaches practical ways to banish the intrusive thoughts that undermine women’s ability to feel — and act — as bright and capable as they truly are.
The workshop on 15 April 2021 is co-organized with ArbitralWomen, together with Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner, Betto Perben Pradel Filhol and Lalive. The event is open to members of Mute Off Thursdays, Young Mute Off Thursdays and ArbitralWomen.
As Mute off Thursdays embarks on Year 2, the co-founders look forward to celebrating the power of staying strong together, no matter the circumstances.
See you on Thursdays!
The Mute Off Thursdays full ‘syllabus’ for its first year (April 2020-April 2021) is here.