Diversity at the American Arbitration Association

By Slate, William K., II | Dispute Resolution Journal, February-April 2008 | Go to article overview

Diversity at the American Arbitration Association


Slate, William K., II, Dispute Resolution Journal


From the President of the American Arbitration Association (AAA)

In a park a short distance from the United Nations, the following quote by Dag Hammarskjöld, former U.N. Secretary General, is inscribed on a walkway: "Never for the sake of peace and quiet deny your own experience or convictions." That wonderful thought resonates for the American Arbitration Association as an organization, which has been committed to the attainment of diversity in all aspects of ADR. What I mean by diversity has been described by Judge Timothy Lewis, the chair of our Diversity Committee, formed in the fall of 2006, as "promoting inclusion of various individuals who historically have been excluded from meaningful and active participation in ADR." Clearly this includes people of color, women, Asian Americans, Native Americans and Hispanic Americans and other minorities.

I highlighted this important issue at the most recent annual meeting of the AAA Board of Directors, at which I reported on our plans to make diversity in ADR a priority, and invited the AAA board members to facilitate this goal with suggestions, and offers of assistance.

And if anyone needs to ask why the attention on diversity, the answer is that the exclusion of different groups from meaningful and active participation in ADR is insupportable as a matter of justice. ADR should not countenance any elements of racism or mindless prejudice, however subtle. Furthermore, having able and competent professionals who are members of these excluded groups will most assuredly strengthen the field. ADR exists largely because of the parties' confidence in the integrity of ADR processes and the fairness of its neutrals.

Also, as a truly neutral organization, the AAA has long believed that these are first principles and that it continues to have a duty to use all of its resources to pursue the goal of diversity until there is full representation of minorities in the ADR field.

Our commitment to diversity applies to our workforce, roster of neutrals, and board of directors. We have not yet succeeded in attaining our diversity goals, but in recent years, we have made improvements in minority representation on the board (38%, up from 8%) and the workforce (more 50% gender diverse and 44% racially diverse).

We have made progress diversifying the panel, but clearly more needs to be done. Presently, in round numbers, women and minorities make up approximately 20% of all of our panel and without that total figure the percentage of minorities on the panel is quite low, approximately 7%. Some specialized AAA panels are more diverse than others.

Benjamin Disraeli reminds us, ?The secret to success is indeed constancy to purpose.? We remain constant to diversity goals and plan to move forward to implement a policy of inclusiveness across our culture.

Based on discussions of the Diversity Committee, and with significant energy and ideas from AAA staff, we are focusing initially on three goals. …

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