Chinwe Odigboegwu FCIArb is a Lawyer, Mediator, Mediation Advocate, Arbitrator, Trainer, Chartered Secretary, Notary Public, and Author. She is currently the Legal Director of Guinness Nigeria Plc. (Diageo), having held prior roles with a top Commercial Law Firm and another FMCG Multinational.
Chinwe is affiliated with professional bodies including the Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators of Nigeria (ICSAN), the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators UK (CIArb), the Centre for Effective Dispute Resolution, UK (CEDR), and the Standing Conference of Mediation Advocates, UK (SCMA).
She is a member of the Panel of Neutrals and Training Faculty of the Lagos Multi-Door Courthouse (LMDC), Lagos Court of Arbitration (LCA), and the Negotiation and Conflict Management Group (NCMG).
1. Why have you decided to specialise in ADR?
From childhood, I have always believed that if we are determined, we can always find better and more peaceful ways of getting results. I know that we cannot totally eradicate disputes, but we can almost always find ways to resolve disputes in non-adversarial ways. Immediately I found the opportunity to train and begin my journey as an ADR Specialist in 2004, I took it. It’s been a great journey learning and adding value, especially since I started training others to become ADR specialists (Mediators and Mediation Advocates).
2. What are the challenges women in ADR face in the early stages of their career?
The challenges that women face seem to confront them everywhere! The imposter syndrome tops my list! Even where men, society and systems may not trouble a woman so much like in the ADR profession, a female ADR specialist is likely to doubt her abilities and rank her male counterparts above herself, thus robbing herself of opportunities. Very unfortunate, but real…most times, it’s unconscious.
3. What keeps you motivated in your career?
I am most happy when I come up with solutions, especially when the solutions are not just to resolve legal issues. I am motivated by positive feedback.
4. What does breaking the bias mean to you?
For me, breaking bias is deliberately taking action to identify, confront and deal with stereotypes, starting with oneself. It requires verbal and non-verbal communication, that is, speaking about the cons of bias and modelling objectivity, amongst others. If we want a bias-free world, we must start by confronting personal biases.
5. What is it like to work in a predominantly male profession?
Honestly, I try not to recognise the male dominance. I have, however, learned not to be intimidated whilst remaining courteous and non-contentious as I work with my male counterparts.
6. How has CIArb influenced your career?
CIArb has provided me with very thorough training as well as networking opportunities. My Mentors who are at the highest membership levels of CIArb have been very instrumental in my career growth and personal development. Also, the CIArb brand is so great that I am proud to state it boldly with my name, in my CV and in my personal bio.
7. Tell us about your interests.
I love teaching, music, watching movies and swimming. I also love gaining new knowledge and multiple competencies so that I do not get bored doing the same things for too long. I really love making impact on people and systems; I want people and organisations to be better versions of themselves just by coming in contact with me.