NEW YORK — The latest in a continuing series of candid discussions among senior corporate lawyers and executives — “The Real-World Implications of #MeToo” — continued earlier this month.
The series of roundtable events are meant to facilitate conversations about how lawyers are uniquely positioned to positively impact change within their organizations and their profession.
The highly successful series continues to encourage conversation around the real world impact of the #MeToo movement and its impact on the corporate environment, especially in areas of sexual abuse and harassment in the workplace. After four successful roundtable events since last Spring, the fifth installment in the series — hosted by FiscalNote, Her Justice, and Thomson Reuters and held at the offices of Shearman & Sterling — provided 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.
You can read the full coverage of the event at the Her Justice website here.
Dave Curran, Senior Vice President & Chief Business Officer at FiscalNote, moderated the discussion; and Joe Kennedy, a committed community organizer and advocate for women’s rights, played a vital role in organizing the event. Curran and Kennedy developed the series, in collaboration with Her Justice, and have held events previously in New York and in Denver. They are planning their next event in San Francisco, to be hosted by Uber Technologies, Inc., on March 21.
At the recent event, Curran began the roundtable by sharing an MSNBC video clip focusing on whether anything has really changed after the #MeToo movement. He outlined the goals of the session, which included an open and honest discussion of issues of sexual assault, harassment, and gender diversity in the context of the #MeToo movement with the further goal of developing practical takeaways for corporate and law firm leaders to promote positive change. Among the questions being asked: What are lawyers doing, and what could they do, to protect their clients or their organizations and, at the same time, do the right thing?
Amy Barasch, Executive Director of Her Justice, provided an overview of Her Justice and how its work relates to the issues surrounding #MeToo. Her Justice is a nonprofit that provides free legal services in family, matrimonial, and immigration law to New York City women living in poverty. Barasch explained to the group that the commonality between the work of Her Justice and #MeToo is the abuse of power. Sex is merely a tool of control. For Her Justice clients, challenging harassment is not possible given the other barriers they face, such as poverty, language barriers, and immigration status.
Curran then prompted the group conversation with a probing question, “What do you believe has changed since the #MeToo movement?” Participants cited several changes, and then shared their own experiences, perspectives and suggestions.
Several participants agreed that corporate leadership needs to instill both a top-down and bottom-up approach toward fighting sexual harassment or abuse in the workplace. This practice will help in acknowledging and addressing instances of inappropriate behavior within an organization and making it known that the organization will not tolerate sexual harassment and abuse. And while corporate boards are starting to take more responsibility in this area, they only know the information that is presented to them by management.