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Workshop: Advancing Women in High Level Mediation: Addressing Mediator Qualifications

Women’s representation in high level mediation remains woefully low. Seeking to redress the imbalance, the GCSP, Durham University and Mediators Beyond Borders International  hosted a joint workshop dedicated to developing a skills-based approach to mediator recruitment.

What holds female mediators back? According to research compiled by Dr. Catherine Turner, it is too often the absence of clear agreed selection criteria resulting in an opaque recruitment process that favours the usual suspects on the basis of diplomatic prestige, rather than mediation skills. On 26 June 2018, over two dozen mediation practitioners, experts, and government representatives came together at the GCSP to identify skills-based selection criteria for mediators.

Facilitated by Catherine Turner and Fleur Heyworth, the workshop drew on the participants’s knowledge and experience to elicit the preconditions for successful mediation, and the key skills to lead an effective process.  Diversifying mediation teams was identified as a necessary element both to harness collective intelligence and create inclusive sustainable outcomes.

Fleur Heyworth, led a conversation with guest speaker Jeremy Lack introducing leadership research and neuroscientific evidence on the importance of women’s meaningful participation. She said ‘This was a particularly valuable part of the day for many participants to discuss interdisciplinary research.  There is a lot of data available on the factors driving human behaviour and we can use it more effectively to select our teams and design processes.  Many good practices already reflect what the research tells us, but when it comes to advancing women who are traditionally excluded, we know that this research is important to make the case for change.’

Prabha Sankaranaryan, President and CEO of Mediators Beyond Borders International, shared research on experience and accreditation criteria for mediators from across different disciplines including commercial, civil and family, where systems are more professionalised and transparent.  Through a group facilitated process, participants developed a set of draft qualification for mediators. They identified a number of factors obstructing the career progression of female mediators while reflecting on policy solutions to rectify the situation. Special attention was given to the role of national and international women mediation networks in supporting the advancement of women in the role of mediator.

The workshop was followed by a reception with high-level diplomatic representatives. It provided an opportunity to share outcomes from the workshop with governmental representative, winning them as vital partners in advancing transparency and inclusion in the high level appointments process.