TWLL Industry Event: How a Personal Commitment to Women’s Advancement by Male Allies Drives Inclusion and Mitigates #MeToo

Topics: Allies, Client Relations, Corporate Legal, Diversity, Law Firms, Leadership, Leadership & Retention, Thomson Reuters, Women’s Leadership Blog Posts

male allies

Thomson Reuters’ Transforming Women’s Leadership in the Law (TWLL) initiative held its final industry event of 2018, continuing its examination of men’s role in women’s advancement in the law. The program included an introduction of TWLL by Brian Peccarelli, co-COO and Head of the Legal Professionals segment at Thomson Reuters, and a brief, moderated conversation between Deirdre Stanley, EVP & General Counsel of Thomson Reuters, and Barry Salzberg, former global CEO of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Ltd.

A panel discussion moderated by Jennifer Brown, CEO of Jennifer Brown Consulting, and featuring Dan Goldstein, EVP & Chief Legal officer of Pitney Bowes; Rossie Turman, Banking Partner at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom; and Neil Goldman, M&A Partner at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, followed.

Journey to Male Ally

Brown started the panel by pointing out that being an ally is a journey, not a destination, and that the ultimate goal is, particularly for those with relative privilege, to be called an ally by others who may struggle with marginalization and who appreciate your efforts. In other words, one is only a true ally when someone in an underrepresented group says, “You are an ally.”

Goldman discussed how he grew up with his mother working full-time and because of this, thought gender equality was the norm. He recalled being surprised when as a new M&A lawyer he realized there were not many women in the practice.

Skadden Arps’ Turman told how his journey as a male ally started in his childhood as well. His parents taught him early to be an advocate to his brother and three sisters, advising, “If one of your siblings is getting into trouble, and you don’t get involved, don’t come home.”

The Impact of Male Champions

All of the panelists described specific examples of how their personal commitment to the advancement of women has caused change. Goldstein shared that as a buyer of legal services he asks questions of the entire outside counsel team during the pitch process. More specifically, if the law firm’s pitch team lead is a male partner, Goldstein watches the male partner to see if he is comfortable allowing the diverse associates to talk. If he observes the lead male partner’s discomfort, he politely dismisses the law firm from consideration.

Goldman discussed how he consistently works with his peers at Paul Weiss to make sure they assign work equitably among diverse associates. He said he is committed to ensuring a level playing field for all associates and that diverse associates have the opportunity to work on the law firm’s most important matters. On sponsorship, Goldman also makes “an extra effort to spotlight the work of rising star women” to ensure they get the visibility and opportunities they deserve.

Turman scales “stealth mentoring” as his personal commitment. Indeed, Turman said he’s willing to mentor anyone except for those who lack judgment, work ethic, or will not commit to mentoring others.

Guidance on How to Handle the #MeToo Backlash

Panelists shared their views on how to handle pushback from male peers about their concern around #MeToo incidents. Goldstein, of Pitney Bowes, called withdrawing from advocating for women as a result of #MeToo a “cop-out”, and stated that he “does not have much patience for excuses” from men or women who have changed how they lead talent or mentor or sponsor talent because of #MeToo. “People are people, and you approach them as such,” he said.

Turman discussed how he pushed back against Skadden’s initial change of its summer associate program in response to #MeToo concerns. Some of the informal elements of the program had been curtailed. Eventually, certain parts of the programs were restored to ensure that summer associates had the opportunity to forge personal connections with partners and mid-level and senior associates. Indeed, these personal connections are critical for making the right hiring decisions, according to Turman.