SAN FRANCISCO — “The Real-World Implications of #MeToo: Transforming the Legal Ecosystem” — a continuing series of candid discussions among senior corporate lawyers and executives — held its sixth and most recent event, organized by FiscalNote, Her Justice, and Thomson Reuters, and hosted by Uber Technologies, Inc. in late March.
This was the first roundtable on the West Coast and the largest roundtable to date, bringing together more than 40 senior executives, outside counsel, and in-house counsel from more than 30 major corporations and law firms based in the Bay area and elsewhere. The series of roundtable events, which are growing in size and popularity, are meant to facilitate conversations about how lawyers are uniquely positioned to positively impact change within their organizations and their profession.
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The series also encourages conversation around the real world impact of the #MeToo movement and its impact on the corporate environment, especially in areas of sexual harassment and gender discrimination in the workplace. The roundtable discussions also provide senior corporate executives, in-house counsel, and law firm attorneys from a variety of business and legal sectors with a unique forum in which to discuss these timely issues.
Dave Curran, Senior Vice President & Chief Business Officer at FiscalNote, moderated the discussion. Curran developed the series with Joe Kennedy, a committed community organizer and advocate for women’s rights, in collaboration with Her Justice.
At the most recent event, Tony West, Uber’s General Counsel, opened by zooming in on how the #MeToo movement has raised more cultural awareness than ever about the pervasive reality of sexual assault and misconduct in our society, and has shown us that every industry and community is touched by these issues. It has also revealed the need to confront sexual assault and misconduct in a way that hasn’t been done before, West said.
(Read our recent interview with Tony West around issues of corporate responsibility and sustainability.)
West also shared his belief that Uber can help transform corporate culture by doing things differently than companies have in the past and fully committing to transparency. To that end, Uber is publishing a transparency report this year that will include an account of the sexual assaults that took place on the platform. West added that it was a tough decision to make, as even talking about the issue of sexual violence can seem risky — which helps explain why companies have stayed silent for so long. But if companies are willing to court risk in the name of disruption and innovation, then they can embrace risk in the name of creating more fairness, safety, and justice in our cities, he added.
Indeed, Uber’s documentation project is an industry first, he said, and sorely needed given that data on safety and sexual assaults is generally sparse, inconsistent, and mostly unavailable across industry.
Take-Aways from the Event
There were several key take-aways discussed at the event by both speakers and attendees that could be put in place at your organization to better address issues of sexual harassment and gender discrimination at work and create a more inclusive and transparent culture within the organization.
These take-away included:
- Developing thoughtful anti-harassment and anti-discrimination materials tailored to your company, and then conducting in-person trainings with this material so that employees understand that the company takes these issues seriously;
- Considering hiring a victim’s advocate or designating someone within your company (outside of HR or the Legal Department) as a victim’s advocate to encourage employees to report claims of sexual harassment and gender discrimination and help level the playing field; and
- Remembering that it’s important to employees and clients that the respectful tone at the top permeate the firm’s culture and is reinforced at all levels.
This series of roundtable discussions is crucial to remind in-house and outside counsel that developing a respectful corporate culture and preventing #MeToo issues and incident are essential not just to the organization’s reputation and that of its management, but to the organization’s success and bottom line as well.
The “The Real-World Implications of #MeToo — Transforming the Legal Ecosystem” series will continue with its seventh event, on May 14 in Washington, D.C. The event will be hosted by 3M Corp. For information regarding this event please contact Alexa Minerva (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Joe Kennedy (email@example.com).