In 2007, the Supreme Judicial Council of Egypt appointed 30 female judges, a significant step forward in a nation in which women had worked in the legal profession since the 1930s, but did not serve on the bench until 2003. In 2016, the first female arbitrator was appointed in Saudi Arabia, a process which required the administrative Court of Appeal in Dammam to provide its approval. This appointment followed the 2012 adoption in Saudi Arabia of a new arbitration law based on the UNCITRAL Model Law, which, unlike the previous arbitration law, does not include any gender requirements for arbitrators.
These two events underscore the difficulty of discussing the role of women in arbitration in the MENA region. As one would expect, gender diversity is uneven in a region that is home to such a diverse mix of progressive and conservative nations.
This heterogeneity extends beyond gender issues. The MENA region is home to significant diversity in race, ethnicity, nationality, religion, and innumerable other characteristics. Ensuring fair representation in each of these areas is no less important than ensuring gender diversity.