Where are the men? Events for women in the law highlight what men can do too

After attending the Women in Law Summit, Tim Wilbur highlights some of the things he learned that men can do

Before the Covid-19 pandemic put a temporary stop to legal events, I attended several events geared toward women. One of the most common questions I was asked, at least one that sticks in my head, is “where are the men?”

My first reaction to that question is often “I don’t know, but I am here.” I am not sure why men don’t show up, I will say, but is there a message you would like me to pass along?

Luckily, the answer is almost always “YES!” Women attending these events have a lot of helpful tips on how men can help address gender disparities in the legal profession. They all agree that improving gender balance is not solely a woman’s responsibility.

At our recent Women in Law Summit, the panelists had many constructive ideas for me to bring back. Our aim in the cover story in our April issue was to summarize them for all those people, especially the men, who decided not to attend.

Many of the panelists spoke about changing how work is measured. Traditionally, law firms would measure input, such as “face time,” to gauge who was productive. Although their output may be the same or better than their male counterparts, women often don’t receive the credit when their work is unseen, whether it is working late at home or supporting a male colleague with more visibility.

Another prevalent theme was the personal versus the private. Many men also have stressful personal lives but will not speak about this at work. Acknowledging these difficulties in the workplace may allow women, who are often burdened with a disproportionate amount of domestic duties, to speak about this more openly as well.

And more transparency about money can also help. One lawyer on a compensation committee marvelled at the difference between the memos of the male lawyers she received versus those of the women. If you speak more openly about that, women may not feel uninhibited to take on some of the tactics their male colleagues use to get ahead.

So, while the men may come out in smaller numbers, there are a few there listening. They can pass along the advice when they get back to the office.

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