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Does Mediation Have a Diversity Problem?

Does Mediation Have a Diversity Problem?


On the Young Mediators’ blog, Ashley McCann takes a critical look at CEDR’s Tenth Mediation Audit. While the audit reports positive growth and impressive success rates for mediation, it highlights the persistent lack of progress regarding diversity in the mediation profession. “Four years on, the Tenth Audit paints a picture that is pale, male and stale.” she says and calls for a more nuanced approach to assessing diversity and urges the government to prioritise promoting inclusivity in mediation. Do you agree with her assessment?

The Centre for Effective Dispute Resolution’s (CEDR) Tenth Mediation Audit was, in the main, another good news story for commercial mediation, reporting that for the year ended 30 September 2022 the total market in England and Wales was in the order of 17,000 cases (about 3% up on pre-pandemic levels), achieving impressive success rates of 92% and resulting in around £5.9bn savings to businesses through earlier resolution of cases that would otherwise have gone through litigation.

What is troubling however is that there has been no improvement in the representation of women and minority groups since the Ninth Audit in 2020, and slow to no progress for minorities since the Eighth Audit in 2018 which put a focus on the profession’s diversity problem. Four years on, the Tenth Audit paints a picture that is pale, male and stale.

So-called “female involvement” has improved significantly since the 2018 level of 24% of Advanced mediators (those who described themselves as “reasonably” or “very” experienced and account for 76% of the respondents to the Audit). However at 37%, this represents a downward trajectory since 2020 (41%). This is less than, but close to, the level of female representation in the legal profession in England and Wales, where 51% of solicitors in private practice (or 33% of private practice partners) are women – a fair benchmark given 67% of Advanced mediators are also qualified solicitors.

Only 8% of respondent mediators report coming from ethnic minority groups compared with 17% of solicitors, which is no improvement on 2020 (8% of mediators compared with 17% of solicitors), worse than 2018 (10% of mediators compared with 16.5% of solicitors) and significantly less than population as a whole in 2022 (18.3%). Beyond that the statistic is of limited analytical value (it does not tell us anything about the representation of Britain’s black or Asian populations, for example).

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