Freshfield’s Women’s Breakfast Event

Freshfields event on women in arbitration and international law - "Tales from the front line" breakfast event on Saturday, 21 October 2017 at 25hours Hotel Vienna

On 21 October 2017 Freshfields opened the doors of the 25Hours Hotel terrace – with its spectacular view over Vienna – to practitioners in arbitration and international law. The event was opened by Moritz Keller, Head of the Freshfields arbitration group in Vienna followed by an update on the status of the Equal Representation in Arbitration Pledge from the Austrian Steering Committee members, Alice Fremuth-Wolf (Deputy Secretary General of Vienna International Arbitral Centre) and Patrizia Netal (Partner, Knötzl). Alice and Patrizia reported on the great impact the Pledge has had since it was launched in 2016 and of its over 2,000 signatories. Further, Alice informed the audience that subsequent to the call for more transparency in the appointment process of institutional arbitration, VIAC decided to publish the names of arbitrators acting in current proceedings. In this context, the increased number of female appointments has become more evident. Patrizia Netal, also Director of the Willem C. Vis International Commercial Arbitration Moot explained the difficulty in attaining women to sit as arbitrators for the moot and encouraged practitioners to register as arbitrators.

Opening Womens Event 21.10.2017The event continued with a panel of talented women moderated by Niamh Leinwather (Principal Associate, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer) including Francesca Mazza (Secretary General of the German Institute of Arbitration), Ulrike Gantenberg (Partner, Heuking Kühn Lüer Wojtek, Düsseldorf), Jennifer Younan (Partner, Shearman & Sterling, Paris) and Nathalie Berthier-Ortmann (Leadership Executive Coach) who discussed the trials and tribulation of their careers. The hurdles the panelists have faced during their careers, especially at the outset were brought to light as well as the advantage of a supportive mentor. The concept of an "Alpha-Female" and whether it is essential to "work like a man" or become "one of the boys" to really succeed in male dominated business areas such as law was addressed. Each of the panelists shed light on the juggle between the desire to have a family and raise children but also have a successful career.

Complete Panel Womens Event 21.10.2017The main reasons for the under-representation of women in international arbitration were spoken about, including the desire by clients to see female names as arbitrator candidates. There was a general consensus that the Pledge has played a vital role in raising awareness and continues to do so. Last year, arbitral institutions appointed one third more female arbitrators than in the previous year but since arbitral institutions only account for a small percentage of appointments, the onus is on law firms to push for female appointments. The ladies concluded the panel with a discussion on a statement made by Louise Barrington, founder of ArbitralWomen: “The best thing a woman can do is to be super competent, persevere and have thick skin”. Building on this statement, the ladies added that it is essential to also be authentic, relaxed and have a sense of humour.

Rashda Rana SC Womens Event 21.10.2017Rashda Rana SC, President of ArbitralWomen concluded the event by discussing the concept of the glass ceiling, which women continue to face; an invisible but real barrier through which the next stage or level of advancement can be seen, but cannot be reached. In a truly insightful manner Rashda highlighted the contradictorily treatment of men and women's transgressions by topical example; the differential treatment of presidential candidates for their derogatory remarks versus the sending of emails from a private email address. The event was a huge success with plans already in place for a follow up event for next year.

Submitted by Niamh Leinwather, Principal Associate, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer