Missing in action: where are all the women who mediate?

Women missing from commercial mediationAn advertisement for one of the big ADR firms appears regularly in the weekly newspaper for lawyers distributed here in Massachusetts.

The ad, in sober gray, black, and white, covers more than half a page. It displays thumbnail photos of the neutrals on its panel, with the names in full caps printed neatly beneath each headshot.

Samuel. Jerry. William. Gordon. David. Patrick. Cortland. James. A second James. Robert. Charles. Allan. Eric. John.

And, like an afterthought, or a printing error, one lone Maria.

This ad bothers me. It seems to contradict everything I have told my daughter about women and careers. “You can be anything you want,” I have told her, ever since she was a little girl.

This ad tells my daughter something very different.

9 responses to “Missing in action: where are all the women who mediate?

  1. John DeBruyn

    Hi Diane: I see a good topic for a Cyberweek program here. John

  2. Answer: Working as Ombuds.

    My quick analysis indicates that about 60% of International Ombudsman Association members (i.e., working full time as Ombuds and practicing to the IOA Code and Standards) are women. Moreover, many of the leading lights in the profession are women. So here’s at least one sector of ADR where women predominate professionally.

  3. Hi Diane,

    This has always been an issue with JAMS. (I used to work there and they got rid of all the women) Note the name – Judicial Arbitration and Mediation Service. They want high powered former litigators and judges. So, who gets in – white men. All of the people you mentioned also happen to be white! The attitude has always been, find us a good person of color or woman who meets our criteria (will work for 40% of the take as an independent consultant, is a known name, will market, and really can support themselves).

  4. Diane Levin

    Tom, thanks for weighing in. Interesting that so many members of IOA are women. Would that things looked different for commercial mediation.

    As Ericka points out, the absence of women and people of color has been a long-standing problem. I think that part of the issue is not just the institutional and cultural barriers that continue to bar women and minorities from advancing professionally to the same degree as white men have, but also the widely held (and mistaken) belief that judges and former litigators necessarily make the best mediators. The recent article by Len Riskin and Nancy Welsh I discussed two weeks ago points to the failures of a rights-based model of mediation practice where the interests of parties are ignored by the lawyers who dominate such processes, or cast in darkness by the long shadow the courthouse casts.

    Thanks to you both for commenting.

  5. Hello Diane,

    Where are the women?

    Some are working for low wages in community mediation centers despite high levels of training, professionalism and skill. Often these are women who for one reason or another do not need to make much money. Of course, there are the volunteers, too.

    It’s great that mediation centers exist and they make profound contribution. And, it would be even better if this profession could find a way to more fairly compensate more of its practitioners.

  6. Diane Levin

    DB, I couldn’t agree more. While community mediation holds a special place in my heart, I fear that its provision of professional services for free or for low cost contributes to the devaluation of the work mediators do everywhere. In my experience in community mediation, the vast majority of volunteers are indeed women. I wonder to what extent that factor influences the low pay or lack of pay for community mediation services.

    Thank you for introducing yourself, DB, and for taking time to comment. It’s great to hear from you.

  7. Where are the women mediators? I lived in Pennsylvania and was a court appointed mediator (both genders well represented). We received the court mandated fee of $200 for an orientation session at that time. Since then I have moved to Florida where in order to become a court appointed mediator I must take a course taught by trainers who have less formal conflict resolution education than I have (I have a Ph.D. in Conflict Analysis and Resolution and have taught graduate level mediation courses) and then would receive $40 for mediating a case. This is one woman mediator who cannot compete with attorneys in this state. I miss family mediation, but fortunately still get cases to mediate outside of the court system.

  8. Diane Levin

    Anita, thanks for joining the conversation. Sorry to hear about your experiences in Florida. How frustrating for you to feel as if your services — and your credentials — have been devalued. Your are by no means alone — I think there are many women who mediate who have had similar experiences, if the emails I have gotten in response to this post are any indication. Best of luck to you, and thank you again for reading and taking time to comment. I do appreciate it.

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