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Q&A with Jonathan Goldin: The role of men in closing the gender gap in law

  • Diversity in law
December 22, 2020

Initiatives from The Equity Project to the #HeForShe campaign launched by the United Nations call on male lawyers, particularly in positions of power and influence, to advocate for the importance of gender diversity in the business of law.

Jonathan Goldin is both an Equity Project Champion and General Counsel for a leading financial advisory firm. We sat down with him to discuss how men can help close the gender gap.

From your perspective, what are the primary obstacles to gender equality in law and business?

Each of us who is not a woman is related to at least one. Other struggles for equality have not had the benefit of being so universally personal. How could we want anything but that we and/or our partners, mothers, daughters and sisters get a fair shake?  The key to unlocking the power of that universal sentiment is pressing forward with continued evolution of social conceptions of gender roles. 

Studies by McKinsey and others show that if no action is taken to counter the gender-regressive effects of the pandemic, global GDP growth could be $1 trillion lower in 2030 than it would be if women’s unemployment simply tracked that of men in each sector. Why is gender equality a problem for all and not simply a woman’s issue? 

Static business models give rise to inefficiencies, especially in times of great change. I hope that a silver lining of the horrendous pandemic is an enhanced comfort with trying alternative working arrangements. If that comfort survives the pandemic—and perhaps even gains momentum as technology advances—men and women struggling to meet work, family and other obligations may find new and different ways to strike the balance. Less flexibility blocks avenues towards economic productivity. More flexibility affords additional ways to be economically accretive, which redounds to the benefit of all.   

The 2020 Equity Project Study revealed that 52% of GCs are entirely unaware of how origination credit is awarded. How willing are law firms to share this information and why it is important for clients to ask?

I understand why law firms might want to keep aspects of non-lockstep compensation schemes proprietary and knowing specific details is not essential to me.  More and more today, we hire lawyers who happen to be at particular firms, rather than hiring firms that happen to have particular lawyers. A firm’s institutional luster may be helpful, but it is not usually dispositive, whereas individual talent, assuming proper institutional support, often is.  We consumers of legal services need to make it clear which lawyers we are hiring. As long as those lawyers include the kind of remarkably capable women I have encountered during my career, those firms that fail to recognize generation capability fairly and appropriately, do so at their great market peril. 

48% of GCs say their companies have asked their law firm to put a woman on a litigation or arbitration team. How important is it for male lawyers in positions of influence to advocate for women?

Demanding the involvement of women may be a start, but it is imperative that clients turn to excellent women as their go-to lawyers. Being staffed on a matter for atmospherics entails minimal, if any, empowerment.  Being a lawyer on whom the client relies directly, however, changes the dynamic.

On a microlevel how can men in business elevate and support the women they work with? 

When we make the effort to be respectful and inclusive to everyone, that elevates and supports all of our colleagues. It is not a matter of treating members of a particular group with kid gloves, but, rather, being universally empathetic, which can be done while maintaining the highest professional standards and expectations. 

How do you foresee economic incentives like The Equity Project impacting the gender gap in law?

Economic empowerment is essential for sustainable advancement. Making incremental resources available to women lawyers through programs like The Equity Project will hopefully move the economic empowerment needle meaningfully so as, ultimately, to render themselves obsolete.