by Paola Fudakowska, AIJA President 2019-2020
As incoming President of the International Association of Young Lawyers in September 2019 – the fifth female lawyer to lead our association in the last ten years – I have chosen diversity as the theme of my presidency.
So what do I mean by diversity? The dictionary definition suggests different elements or qualities and variety, with the specific example of the inclusion of different types of people in a group or organisation. AIJA is a truly international association for around 4,000 junior to mid-career lawyers from over 90 countries representing over 700 law firm of all sizes. Our statistics speak for themselves: 43 per cent of our members are women and 43 per cent of the officer roles are held by women. There is currently a gender balance across the Association’s executive board and during the past ten years 73 per cent of the senior leadership roles on our executive board were held by women. But we can do more. When organising our high-quality seminars, our members are encouraged to ensure gender-diverse panels, with a wide representation of countries and different sized law firms.
The Association’s strategic focus is to increase geographic diversity by growing our membership in Asia, the Americas and Africa.
Building on the success of events in Singapore and Hong Kong, during my presidency the focus is on the Americas as we host our half-year November 2019 conference in Miami and the August 2020 annual congress in Rio.
Our partnerships with other legal associations that have a strong presence in our target continents, such as the International Bar Association, offer existing networks to support our goals of long-term growth and development in our chosen geographic areas.
I am actively working with our African members and our motivated commission officers who want to deliver an event in Africa in late 2020/2021, so watch this space.
My promise of prioritising diversity is supported by the creation of a new diversity officer position to join our advisory board. That role will entail actively monitoring and promoting diversity among our membership and our events. It will also focus on leveraging our existing relationships with sponsors and legal association partners, as well as identifying new connections and opportunities to promote the Association’s long-term commitment to diversity. Churchill famously said, ‘Diversity is the one true thing we all have in common – celebrate it every day’.
Our annual congress in the technicolour city of Rio on 24-28 August 2020 represents the end of my tenure. What better place in
the world for our Association to make a public commitment to diversity while celebrating our existing success!
This article was first published in the IBA Litigation Committee newsletter in September 2019, and is reproduced by kind permission of the International Bar Association.