Women who Lead in Dispute Resolution

A Webinar in celebration of Women's month

We know all about Getting to Yes, Roger Fisher and William Ury, positions and interests, icebergs and oranges, but have you ever heard of Mary Parker Follett?

Mary Parker Follett was born in 1868, into a wealthy Quaker family in Boston. She was an exceptional scholar and a polymath, attending university at Harvard (the Society for Collegiate Instruction of Women – later Radcliffe College), during which time she also spent a year at Newnham College, at Cambridge University (in England). Although denied a PhD by Harvard, she studied widely in law, economics, politics, philosophy, and history. While at Cambridge University she prepared and delivered a paper that was to become, in 1918, her first book. She wrote widely but is seldom credited for her ideas, many of which established the foundations of modern approaches to conflict management and dispute resolution.

The concepts she propounded and for which she deserves credit include:

  • Integration is the most effective means of dealing with conflict - Follett identified 3 conflict resolution possibilities – dominance, compromise and integration. She spelt out why integrative negotiation and its win/win approach always created the greatest opportunities to maximise value. This is where the concept of integrative negotiation comes from.
  • Exploring and sharing interests is the foundation for all successful conflict resolution - Follett saw this as the foundation of achieving a good outcome at the table and identified it long before Getting to Yes.
  • Conflict has value - Follett saw conflict as an opportunity – neither good nor bad – and talked about the creative power of friction.  This concept appears often in our literature but is seldom credited to Follett.
  • Leadership and power are intertwined - Follett developed the concepts of power-with and power-over and concluded that the most effective leaders empower others via a ‘power-with’ approach that strengthens organisations and their people.
  • Narratives are persuasive - Follett is the mistress of the narrative. Fisher and Ury used her story of the students in the library in Getting to Yes. Follett’s work is peppered with stories. They are real, which adds to their power and they create a framework to demonstrate theory in action. She is a great storyteller.
  • Diversity is valuable - This is an important part of our language today.  Follett’s urging us to embrace diversity, more than 100 years ago, was revolutionary.

(Rosemary Howell https://www.strategicaction.com.au/articles/the-interruption-game-why-are-we-still-playing-a9zjd)

Join Felicity Steadman (Director of Conflict Dynamics since 1996, former Senior CCMA commissioner and Senior Staffer, Board member and panellist at IMSSA) on 12 August for a webinar in which she talks to women who lead and have led dispute resolution organisations in South Africa, including: 


  • Nerine Kahn - CEO of the Commission for Conciliation Mediation and Arbitration 2006 - 2016 
  • Gina Barbieri - Compliance Advisor Ombudsman of the IFC and World Bank Group - 2011 - 2022; currently Ombudsperson for WWF 
  • Princess Kelebogile Ka-Siboto - South African Human Rights Commission: Acting Head Legal Services 
  • Tanya Venter - CEO of Tokiso Dispute Settlement 2006 - 2022 
  • Robin Monakali, Project Co-ordinator at Conflict Dynamics, will sum up at the close from the perspective of a young woman developing her leadership skills in the dispute resolution field.

Book for the webinar on 12 August 2022.