The Women of the American Society of International Law

Women are making their mark at the American Society of International Law (“ASIL”), receiving public recognition for their accomplishments in a field of law traditionally dominated by men.

ASIL, founded in 1906, fosters the study of international law and promotes the establishment and maintenance of international relations. Every spring, ASIL organizes an Annual Meeting, widely considered the preeminent international law conference, bringing together thousands of policymakers, practitioners, academics, and students from around the world.This year, ASIL’s commitment to gender diversity is especially evident.

  • In a first for ASIL, all three co-Chairs of the Annual Meeting Program Committee (Tendayi Achiume, Dawn Yamane Hewett, and Debevoise senior associate Ina Popova) are women, each from diverse backgrounds.
  • Two-thirds of the Program Committee members are women of varying nationalities, ethnicities, professions and educational backgrounds.
  • Half of ASIL’s current officers are women.
  • With the assumption of the presidency by Lucinda Low at this year’s Annual Meeting, half of ASIL’s last six presidents will have been women (Lucy Reed, Lori Damrosch, and Lucinda Low).

These developments are particularly timely. At this year’s Annual Meeting, ASIL’s Women in International Law Interest Group will feature a discussion celebrating 25 years of feminist approaches to international law. Nevertheless, difficulties remain in achieving gender and other kinds of diversity, which requires conscious planning. To encourage change in the face of these difficulties, ASIL maintains a formal written policy requiring, among other things, gender diversity on panels at the Annual Meeting.

This year’s Program Committee has continued the work of prior committees to ensure a diverse and dynamic roster of speakers and has formalized a separate track of programming dedicated to professional and academic development. Two of the keynote speakers at the Annual Meeting will also be women: President Michelle Bachelet of Chile (marking the first time a sitting head of State will address the Annual Meeting) and Professor Gabrielle Kaufmann-Kohler.

Debevoise has a longstanding tradition of service to ASIL, especially among the women of the firm’s International Dispute Resolution practice, as summarized in the chart below. This year, in addition to Popova’s role as co-Chair, associates Elizabeth Nielsen and Jennifer Lim have played a leading role on the Program Committee, working closely with the co-Chairs to organize the programming at the Annual Meeting. Describing her experience on the Program Committee, Nielsen said:

“It has been an exciting opportunity to work on and discuss cutting edge issues across all different fields of international law, and to interact with experts in those fields from both the public and private sectors.”

Lim agreed:

“Organizing the Annual Meeting has allowed me to collaborate with people based all over the world. Hearing their views as informed by their experiences has been an invaluable learning experience.”

We congratulate ASIL for its continuing efforts to achieve diversity of all kinds—including by giving women a strong voice in its governance and programming—to ensure that the development of international law in the 21st century takes into account perspectives from historically underrepresented stakeholders. We look forward to a dynamic discussion at the Annual Meeting next month.

Ina Popova and Jennifer Lim are associates in Debevoise’s New York office.

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