The work to achieve gender equity in the legal profession involves people of all genders, but getting men on board with such efforts can be a challenge.
In fact, most men are hesitant to participate in women lawyers’ affinity groups, according to a new report from the American Bar Association.
The ABA Commission on Women in the Profession partnered with attorneys and diverse bar associations to survey attorneys in New York, Dallas and San Francisco about men’s perceived barriers to engaging with women’s issues in the legal field and strategies to overcome those obstacles. The report, titled “Men in the Mix: How to Engage Men on Issues Related to Gender in the Legal Profession,” details findings from the focus groups.
Eighty-three percent of male respondents said fear of not fitting in or saying the wrong thing keeps them from actively supporting gender-equity efforts. Several respondents said men may feel threatened or like they’ll be perceived as sexist.
In addition, 62% of men haven’t joined in efforts to advance equity for women in the legal profession because they haven’t been invited. Male respondents suggested that women extend personal invites to men and explain how men’s participation would be valuable to the conversation.
Both men and women believe having those no-judgment conversations is vital to advancing gender-equity goals. Ninety percent of the women lawyers surveyed said creating safe spaces at firms and legal organizations is the best way to encourage men to discuss issues of gender equity. Most male lawyers also agreed, with 63% supporting the creation of such spaces.
“Setting up safe spaces within firms to engage in open conversations (is necessary),” a male lawyer said. “Discussing diversity and inclusion can sometimes feel like a field full of landmines, but [shying away from the discussions] does everyone a disservice.”
Explore this interactive infographic to read more about the report’s findings and learn what steps individuals and leadership can take to create a culture that better supports women lawyers. The ABA also compiled resources for having discussions about gender equity in the legal profession on its “Men in the Mix” webpage.