The past few years, and particularly the past few months, have been a very interesting time to be a gender discrimination lawyer focusing on gender issues, particularly in the legal profession. We have been having a national conversation about pay equity, and every day more women lawyers are asking questions about the fairness of their pay and calling us to see how they can act to address it. Additionally, the #MeToo movement has shed light on rampant sexual harassment and other discriminatory behaviors. I am so grateful to be a part of this conversation and to chip away at these inequalities by representing women in the fight for equality.
However, too often these conversations take place only among women. Particularly in the legal profession, where men make up the vast majority of bosses and leaders, we need men to join this conversation. While 45% of law firm associates are women, only 18% of equity partners are women, according to the ABA’s Commission on Women in the Profession. Men also constitute more than 75% of General Counsels in Fortune 500 companies. Breaking through the glass ceiling will be so much easier for women if men are equally engaged.
I am excited that the National Conference of Women’s Bar Associations is promoting programming on GOOD Guys. GOOD stands for “Guys Overcoming Obstacles to Diversity.” This programming is designed to break through the echo chamber, in which conversations about the advancement of women in the legal profession taking place among only women.
Many men are committed to gender equality, and many have acted on this by working to minimize their own biases, and supporting and advancing the careers of individual women. I have benefited from the support of many male attorneys. In my work representing professional women, I have seen huge differences in pay and promotional opportunities between women who have committed male sponsors and women who do not. It is important to celebrate this and to encourage other men to repeat it. We need everyone—men included—to be aware of how their own biases can play out in the workplace and of what specific steps they can take to chip away at the glass ceiling.
The Women’s Bar Association of the District of Columbia is coordinating a GOOD Guys panel discussion for April 12. Male leaders in the profession, including firm chairmen and general counsels, will be discussing how they have worked to advance the careers of female attorneys and why it is important to do so. Stay tuned for details!