GoodGuys' Program Calls on Men To Be Part of the Solution to Gender Inequality in the Legal Profession
According to the National Association of Women Lawyers, if the pace of progress over the last ten years continues, women equity partners will not reach 30 percent until the year 2181 – 159 years from now! Such alarming statistics promoted liked minded men and women attorneys to form GoodGuys (Guys Overcoming Obstacles to Diversity) with the mission of bringing more men into the fight for gender equity in the legal profession. On September 22, 2022, as Co-Chair of Lawyers Club of San Diego's Gender Equity Committee, I attended an outstanding GoodGuys program sponsored by Lawyers Club and the National Conference of Women’s Bar Associations. NCWBA kicked off the well-attended event with a GoodGuys’ primer that educated attendees on the formation and growth of the GoodGuys movement, with chapters in almost every state, Canada and England. Founders were frustrated with the stagnant state of diversity progress and failing diversity initiatives. GoodGuys believes that having more “Guys” active in the movement is part of the solution.
Founding GoodGuys member Steven Velkei of Velkei Law walked us through his personal journey toward recognizing his male privilege and implicit bias and the steps he is taking to disrupt the prevailing power structures that harm women and other under-represented people in leadership roles. Importantly, he stressed that men like himself should not “pat ourselves on the back too quickly” because that slows or stops progress. He presented numbers on the continuing partner compensation disparity between men and women and unpacked some potential causes. On a brighter note, we learned that compensation transparency positively impacts pay parity. Steven’s sincerity, humility and passion make him an ideal GoodGuys ambassador.
Closing the program, moderator Teresa Beck, Managing Shareholder of AZ and NV Klinedinst PC and Co-Chair of its DEIB Committee was joined by panelists Ronna Ruppelt, Chief Executive Officer, CLM, Shaka Johnson, Vice President and Associate General Counsel, Sony Electronics, Bill Sailer, SVP Legal Counsel Qualcomm and Capt. Josh Nauman, Commanding Officer, Region Legal Service Office SW, U.S. Navy. This diverse panel provided insights into the challenges they face in promoting diversity in general and gender equity specifically. Among the many pearls of wisdom and memorable comments was Capt. Nauman’s education from his female reports who shared with him the unique obstacles women face in finding a spouse given the itinerate nature of life as a Naval officer. Without women in leadership roles to educate him, he would have remained clueless on this very central challenge women in the Navy face. Bill Sailer shared hearing the legendary story of Lawyers Club starting with our founding mothers demanding to be seated at the Grant Hotel for lunch and being shocked that such activism was necessary as recently as 1972. Bill stressed culture is more important than strategy when it comes to systemic change. Shaka Johnson warmed the attendees’ hearts with his story of his young daughters playing co-ed flag football and how the girl players, greatly outnumbered by the boys, quietly demonstrated their superior athleticism while the boys exuded unearned confidence. Highlighting progress since her time as the only female attorney at her large Mid-Western law firm, Ronna Ruppelt shared her own “Grant Hotel” moment when she was deprived equal access to a firm event at a local establishment that barred women from using the front door!
Attendees stayed after the program to network and enjoyed delicious food and beverages hosted by Klinedinst PC, overlooking a spectacular view of the Bay and Coronado Bridge. I was impressed by the quality of the program and enthusiasm of the presenters and members.