It was to a packed audience that the Adjudication Society launched two exciting new initiatives – the Equal Representation in Adjudication Pledge and Women in Adjudication on 28 February 2023 at Bush House.
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Hosted by King’s College London, Professor Renato Nazzini, Director of the Centre of Construction Law and Dispute Resolution, gave the welcoming address. Prof. Nazzini set out some of the key findings of the recently published co-report from the Adjudication Society and King’s College London into Construction Adjudication, specifically relating to the low levels of gender diversity amongst Adjudicators. These initiatives have been designed with the critical aims of improving the number of women Adjudicators and the wider commitment of the industry to increase the overall representation of women on Nominating Body panels.
Rt. Hon. Lady Justice Carr DBE delivered the keynote speech which was an emphatic call to action. Referencing Lord Justice’s Coulson’s foreword to the report that this is a “seminal moment in the story of this unique dispute resolution process” and likely to be a real turning point. Her Ladyship also noted that the timing of this launch event, coming hot on the heels of the UN International Day of Women and Girls in Science, was auspicious. Lady Justice Carr went on to focus on the findings of the report, primarily that only 7.88% of adjudicators are women, a far lower percentage than within other construction professions more broadly.
Her Ladyship applauded these initiatives in working to build a bridge in promoting more women to become Adjudicators. Given the importance that Adjudication has played, and continues to play, in the wider construction industry, it is crucial that Adjudicators come from diverse backgrounds. In order that the process of Adjudication can inspire trust and ensure fair outcomes, it needs to be representative. The Adjudication Society’s work is shining a light on the opacity and lack of outreach to encourage more women to put themselves forward for Adjudicator appointments.
There followed an address by Susan Francombe, owner of The Business of Building, who gave the audience some insights into her more than 30 years’ experience in the construction industry and, more specifically, as an Adjudicator. Ms Francombe noted the commitment that was needed from everyone in the industry to address the barriers to entry for women looking to become Adjudicators, the lack of diversity within Nominating Body panels and the very slow rate of change.
Claire King, a partner at Fenwick Elliott, delivered the key messages about how both the Equal Representation in Adjudication Pledge and Women in Adjudication work. Ms King laid down the Society’s ambitious but achievable target of 30% of Adjudicators being women within 3 years. Noting that reaching this target will require committed efforts, Ms King detailed the work needing to be done. Such work ranging from pressure from the users of adjudication, to the setting up of mentoring schemes, to joining the Women in Adjudication Steering Group. However, first things first, we all need to sign the Pledge and encourage others to do likewise!
The evening concluded with a lively panel discussion and input from the audience. Chairing the panel, Hamish Lal, a partner at Akin Gump and Chair of the Adjudication Society Committee, asked the key questions needing answers if the aims of these initiatives are to be met. The panel was made up of pre-eminent representatives from within the industry:
- Annelise Day KC (Fountain Court Chambers),
- Morwenna Crichton (Yelland Savage),
- Rashda Rana (RANA IDRS), and
- Joanne Williams (Capital Consulting International)
The panel gave valuable insights into topics covering, amongst others, what makes people want to become Adjudicators, what barriers are in place and how do these specifically affect women and what tangible actions can people take in order to promote diversity within Adjudication.
After the main business of the evening was concluded, many attendees stayed to enjoy the drinks reception, to network and to carry on the conversation that the event’s speakers had brought to the fore.
A fantastic evening of informative discussion and collegiate commitment to the common aim of improving diversity in Adjudication. Now we must all get on with the work needed to make these goals realities!
Report by Katherine Butler