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Where Are Our Male Allies?  Addressing Sexual Harassment in the Legal Profession

3 min read

Where Are Our Male Allies? Addressing Sexual Harassment in the Legal Profession

As men, it’s hard to imagine what it’s like to be the recipient of these behaviors,” said one participant in Women Lawyers On Guard’s (WLG) pilot initiative, Conversation With Men™, speaking about sexual harassment in the workplace.

The results of WLG’s nationwide sexual harassment and misconduct survey of the legal profession convinced us that the system of addressing sexual harassment in the legal profession was “Still Broken, For example, after 30 years of addressing sexual harassment with policies and training, 86% of current incidents are not reported. And, even when reported, in 50% of the situations, there are no consequences to the harasser for their behavior. (Still Broken can be accessed at

In addition to policies and training, we need new ways of tackling this problem.

Brainstorming and researching potential interventions led us to conclude that men are largely missing from efforts to address sexual harassment, and that “active male allies” are needed to change the perception that this is just a “women’s issue.” In actuality, it is a bottom up, top down and leadership issue that profoundly affects not only those people who are harassed, but many others in the workplace, as well as the organization itself. (Of course, women are not the only ones being harassed, but people who identify as women bear the brunt of the great majority of the sexual harassment.)

So, we devised a pilot initiative that we call Conversations With Men to try to motivate men to address sexual harassment as allies in the workplace.

Active Male Allyship

Research shows that when men are allies for gender equity, progress for women advances 96% as compare to 30% without them. The legal profession is still 2/3 male – think about the missing power of their allyship. Men as allies increase the success of this work because they often have the power to institute change, they can model respectful behavior, and they can effectively silence offenders.

But men are sometimes reluctant to jump in and support women for well-intentioned reasons:   they may feel they do not have the agency- it’s perceived as a “women’s issue”, they believe they will make an embarrassing or harmful mistake, or they do not want to take up women’s leadership oxygen in the room.

Organizations are also sometimes reluctant to invest in sexual harassment initiatives focused on men because they mistakenly believe either that these initiatives do not help women or the optics of financing male-focused programs will not be beneficial to women or the organization.

What is “Conversations With Men”?

The Conversation With Men pilot initiative brings small groups of male attorneys together in

professionally facilitated discussions centered around practicing law in the #MeToo era. These sessions are designed to be honest discussions with the goal of motivating men to become active allies in addressing sexual harassment in the workplace.  

After each group met in two sessions spaced about a month apart, many of the

participants spontaneously asked to continue meeting – and they have been doing so,

monthly, for over a year!

The “secret sauce” of course, includes: the structured discussion format, the professional facilitation, the “homework” between sessions, and the follow-on sessions. Rather than focusing on what “not to do” (as many training programs do), the focus was on what “to do.” The participants reported increased empathy and understanding of the problem, and the sessions and follow up material gave them tools to become active allies, encouraged nuanced discussions, and unified their organizational efforts.

Two Advisory Councils and an Expert Task Force

We didn’t produce this initiative in a vacuum. WLG constituted an Advisory Council (for individuals) and a Roundtable of Advisory Organizations (for entities), inviting a select number of individuals and organizations to join these two advisory groups, welcoming a diverse group for each.

We also formed an Expert Task Force to discuss various concepts of the program and gain guidance on structural issues, for instance whether a male facilitator was essential to ensuring honest and forthright conversations.

The Expert Task Force as well as the Advisory Council and Roundtable of Advisory Organizations can be found on the CWM webpage and in the CWM report at

Some Reactions from CWM Participants

The CWM report contains many insightful remarks from the participants in these sessions. Here are a few:

“[The silence of men] is the great problem here. The men don’t call that person out.…You don’t have to prove everything beyond a reasonable doubt to intercede-before something is really bad.”

“I appreciate hearing and being part of the discussion and the spreading of awareness,

especially to other allies or potential allies.”

“Our group continues to meet, of its own accord, to reinforce our ally efforts”

Next Steps- We Need Your Input

In the next few months, we will be publishing Conversations With Men Toolkits (including Bystander Intervention and “Active Ally Actions”). We will also be pursuing efforts to scale this initiative, looking for opportunities for funding future CWM efforts, and presenting our results in webinars. If your organization or others that you are aware of would be interested in such tool-kits, scaling projects, and/or funding or webinar opportunities, we look forward to hearing from you.

Cory M. Amron, President (she/her)

Corrine P. Parver, CoChair Conversations With Men (she/her)

Women Lawyers On Guard Inc.

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