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Freshfields Risk & Compliance

| 6 minutes read

Eight Years of the ERA Pledge

This month marks the eighth anniversary of the Equal Representation in Arbitration (ERA) Pledge (the Pledge).

The Pledge seeks to increase the number of women appointed as arbitrators to achieve a fair representation as soon as practically possible, with the ultimate goal of full parity. Established in 2016, the Pledge is run through a Global Steering Committee co-chaired by Sylvia Noury KC (founder of the Pledge and International Arbitration Partner at Freshfields) and Justin D’Agostino (CEO of Herbert Smith Freehills). It is also supported by a growing network of Subcommittees.

At each annual anniversary of the Pledge, we reflect on the progress that has been made towards the goal of the Pledge over the previous year and consider our plans for the coming year. 

The number of signatories to the Pledge continues to increase after surpassing the 5,000 milestone in 2022. As at 17 May, the total number of signatories stands at just over 5,700, including over 1000 organisations and from over 135 countries. 

Through the work of the Global Steering Committee and the Pledge Subcommittees, the Pledge continues to expand its global reach. Over the past year, the Pledge has secured key signatories in several new jurisdictions, including the Saudi Center for Commercial Arbitration (SCCA), the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of the Kyrgyz Republic in Kyrgyzstan, the Turkic Arbitration Association (TAA) and the Arbitration Association of Central Eastern Europe (ArbCEE). 


The percentage of female arbitrators appointed globally continues to increase, although the rate of growth has slowed in recent years. The last comprehensive set of data was published in the 2022 ICCA Report on Gender Diversity in Arbitration Proceedings (here), which revealed that 26.1% of all arbitrator appointments globally in 2021 were women. Arbitral institutions almost universally appoint more women than the parties or co-arbitrators: in 2021, the institutions appointed 37.9% women, compared to 17.9% by the parties and 27.1 by co-arbitrators. 

This trend appears to have broadly continued since 2021. Several of the main arbitral institutions are nearing or have reached gender parity in their appointments, whereas party appointments remain a way behind. The following institutions have reported data for their 2023 caseloads:

  • ICSID: 32% of all appointments were women (ICSID appointed 51% women; parties appointed 24% and co-arbitrators appointed 37.5%) (here).
  • SCC: 39% of all appointments were women (the SCC appointed 55% women;  parties appointed 31% and co-arbitrators appointed 10%) (here).
  • SIAC: 37% of the arbitrators appointed by SIAC in 2023 were women (here) (the SIAC statistic has decreased from 46.2% in 2022) (here).
  • HKIAC: 26.8% of all appointments were women (HKIAC appointed 34.9% women; parties appointed 12.8% and co-arbitrators appointed 19.2%) (here).
  • VIAC: 34% of all appointments were women (the Board appointed 52% women; parties appointed 18% and co-arbitrators appointed 42%) (here).
  • NAI: Parties and co-arbitrators appointed 32% women; 39% women were appointed through the list procedure and the NAI appointed 54% women (here).

While the increasing numbers of women appointed by arbitral institutions is encouraging, most arbitrators are appointed by the parties to the arbitration. Consequently, increasing the number of women appointed by parties and co-arbitrators remains a priority for the Pledge. 

It is also important to delve more deeply into the statistics provided by the arbitral institutions to gain a full picture of where hurdles to achieving diversity remain. The Pledge is looking in particular at two areas: the diversity of first-time arbitrators which is key for securing a diverse pool of arbitrators for the future; and whether the value of the dispute has any impact on the likelihood of women being appointed. 

Other areas of progress 

Several arbitral institutions have made steps towards establishing policies and practices to promote gender parity in arbitral appointments over the past year. The Australian Centre for International Commercial Arbitration (ACICA) officially launched a diversity committee which has already begun to take steps to increase the number of women on the ACICA Arbitrator Panel (here) and the Scottish Arbitration Centre launched all-female panels in both domestic and international cases (here). The HKIAC’s recently revised rules include a new provision encouraging parties and arbitrators to take diversity into account when designating arbitrators and requiring HKIAC to do the same when exercising its authority to appoint arbitrators (here).

The GAR Pledge Award 2024 recognised initiatives demonstrating outstanding effort towards advancing diversity of all forms in arbitration. This year’s winner was the ICC Arbitration Guide on Disability Inclusion in International Arbitration.  There were many other notable nominations (listed here), a significant number of which were focussed on advancing other forms of diversity beyond gender. 

News from the Pledge global network

The Pledge community coordinates various initiatives and events to drive forward implementation of the Pledge globally. The Subcommittees are instrumental in advancing gender diversity across different regions. 

  • The Africa Subcommittee has welcomed new members from South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya and Senegal. The Subcommittee continues to be active and successful and has identified members to promote the Pledge in a targeted push across African sub-regions. 
  • The Asia-Pacific (APAC) Subcommittee has enjoyed a very productive and active first year, hosting events across the region that included social gatherings, technical training and mentoring workshops. More events are planned for 2024. The Subcommittee also hosted a Pledge sign-up booth as well as networking events at the ICCA Congress in Hong Kong. 
  • The Bar Subcommittee is preparing draft guidelines for barristers, arbitrators and clerking teams to promote the implementation of the Pledge at the Bar. It is also working on building a network of champions within leading UK Chambers sets to advocate for and promote the Pledge within the organisation.
  • The Pledge India group has expanded to include 154 members, with some members now having been approached through the Subcommittee network for arbitral appointments. Several members attended a “meet and greet” hosted by the LCIA at the Delhi Arbitration Weekend in March 2024. 
  • The Middle East Subcommittee secured several new members in the past year and represented the Pledge at various conferences. The flagship launch event in Saudi Arabia was nominated for the GAR Pledge Award 2024. The Subcommittee is planning various further launch and networking events for the coming year.
  • The US Subcommittee continues to be active and has hosted events this year, including on International Women’s Day. It has also made plans for a Meet the Arbitrator event later this year. 
  • The Pledge also continues to be active through its other Subcommittees, including in Latin America, Italy, Paris, Austria and Canada as well as the Corporate and Young Practitioners Subcommittees.

Looking at the year ahead, in addition to the upcoming events planned by Subcommittees, the Pledge will focus on the priority areas mentioned in this blog, including working with the Corporate Subcommittee and across the other Subcommittees to progress party appointments of female arbitrators as well as the proportion of women securing first-time arbitrator appointments. In relation to the latter, the Pledge plans to publish some guidelines for first-time arbitrators later in the year. 

The work that the Pledge has achieved and that it continues to work towards would not be possible without the commitment of everyone involved in the initiative across the world. A huge thank you to the members of the Global Steering Committee and the Subcommittees, and to all the Pledge supporters for signing up to the Pledge and implementing its aims and objectives in your day-to-day work. 


  • The ERA Female Arbitrator Resources Tool is designed to assist those involved in appointing arbitrators to find and research women arbitrators. It identifies databases and other sources of information on women arbitrators in an easily accessible, printable one-page format. 
  •  The ERA Search Committee continues to run its pro bono service to respond to requests for assistance in finding women arbitrators, matching specific criteria needed for a specific dispute. We encourage members of the arbitration community to use the ERA Pledge Female Arbitration Search Tool to help find suitable women candidates for consideration when putting together shortlists in their cases.
  • The Pledge has collaborated with Jus Connect on a new initiative to provide greater visibility to female arbitrators and foster diversity and inclusion within the arbitration community. Supporters of the Pledge can now register or claim a complimentary profile on Jus Connect’s searchable database of arbitration professionals. If you are a signatory or member of the Pledge (male or female) with at least 2 years’ full-time experience in arbitration, you can sign up and create a profile here, or claim an existing profile on Jus Connect. 

For further information 

To find out further about the Pledge, you can connect with the Pledge on LinkedIn and can visit the Pledge website.



international arbitration