By TIM Initiative • November 19, 2014•Ms. JD, Conference
Ms. JD is launching The Incredible Men (TIM) Initiative this month to celebrate men who are active champions for women’s advancement in the legal profession. These men not only value equality and diversity in the profession, but earnestly and enthusiastically support women and women’s initiatives. The first incredible man we want to feature is Timothy Miller, the initiative's namesake and member of the Board of Directors of Ms. JD.
We had a few questions for Tim:
1. You are the only male on the Ms. JD Board. What's it like to be surrounded by women?
I get asked this question a lot, particularly by men, when I tell people that I serve on Ms. JD’s Board. Frankly, I hardly think about the fact that I am the only male board member. This is probably because I am treated the same as everyone else. My opinion is valued, and I am not dismissed. I can freely express my mind. And, I am included in all activities and decisions.
Because I am treated equally, the fact of the matter is that I find it no different than working with an all-male or mixed gender group at any other non-profit. We work hard. We have fun and joke with each other. We all have our own opinions and thoughts on Ms. JD’s operations and goals, which may lead to disagreements. But we also carefully consider the many options and make decisions as best we can for the benefit of the organization. Like any other non-profit I have been a part of, regardless of gender, we believe passionately in our mission.
2. When did you become involved in issues relating to women in the legal profession? Was there a particular incident or event that prompted your involvement?
In law school, I took Feminist Legal Theory, a course providing an overview of gender justice issues. I took the class because a good friend recommended it to me after we would have discussions of gender issues. Up until then, I was superficially aware of gender inequities. Through the course, I learned how extensive those inequities actually are in the real world, particularly in the legal profession, a profession rooted in fairness and justice.
Shortly after graduating from law school, Nicole Chiu-Wang, a current Ms. JD board member and my friend, approached me to join Ms. JD. I gladly accepted, recognizing that this was my opportunity to get more involved.
Beyond a moral belief in fairness, part of my motivation to get more involved arose because of the many female friends I made during law school, including my girlfriend. I did not feel that I could call myself a friend to them and also accept the status quo of the profession. This is not to say that any of my friends needed my help. They are all intelligent, motivated, and capable. Nonetheless, I thought the least I could do is to join their side in overcoming these issues.
3. Do you think some men are afraid to have an open dialogue about gender equity in the upper echelons of the legal profession? If so, why? What can women do to encourage that conversation?
I do think men are reluctant to have an open dialogue about gender equity. The sad truth is that some of that reluctance is because we do not want our male peers to perceive us as feminine. Some of that reluctance may also be not wanting to appear sexist, and assuming that silence and ignorance is better than asking and learning. Finally, I believe some of that reluctance is motivated by wanting to keep the status quo in a competitive work place, and having a mistaken assumption that competition is always a zero sum game, i.e., a woman’s gain is my loss.
I wish I knew what could be done to encourage the conversation. Unfortunately, I believe the onus of starting this conversation has fallen to women. I think to start, women need to be willing to start the conversation. If women do not start it, I do not think it is a conversation that men will start on their own. Perhaps second, it may be necessary to create a space where men can enter with their ignorance and know that they will not be judged for it. Of course the responsibility is on the men to be willing to listen and learn while in that space and to certainly not be hostile. Most of all, I think women will have to be persistent in pushing the conversation. These are not issues that will be solved in a single conversation. But I believe that consistently bringing these issues to the forefront will allow the gradual change in mindset necessary for gender equity.
4. Getting men engaged in the discussion about the advancement of women in the profession is critical to our collective success. What are some things men can do to drive us toward a critical mass of women in leadership?
I wish I had a definite answer to this question. I suppose many of these things are common sense: be supportive, be respectful, and be encouraging. Perhaps the most important thing is for men to be willing to change their mindsets. Like me, most men probably believe in fairness. But it was not until my perspective changed in law school that I realized that the very profession I was pursuing was not fair to the women in the profession. As part of taking Feminist Legal Theory, we had to write regular blog posts. Writing regular blog posts about feminist issues crystallized for me how untenable it was to believe in fairness and simultaneously accept the unfairness existing in the legal profession. Once I became aware of the need to change my mindset, it only seemed natural that women should be as successful as men and should be in positions of leadership throughout the legal profession.
5. What did you think when we started Ms. JD’s TIM Initiative?
I thought it was a brilliant idea. Gender inequity in the workplace is not only a problem for women, but a problem for everyone. As such, men and women need to work together to help women succeed in the legal profession. One way to encourage that is to acknowledge men who are already mentoring and assisting young women lawyers. I hope for two things from Ms. JD’s TIM Initiative. First, I hope that young women lawyers will see that there are men that are just as interested and motivated in their success, and that they will be encouraged by that. Second, I hope that other men would see that investing in women does not take away from their own success, but that everyone can be successful together.
6. What are you most excited for/nervous about as we kick off Ms. JD’s TIM Initiative?
I am excited for Ms. JD’s TIM Initiative. Among other things, I am looking forward to meeting men who have made the investment in young women lawyers and helped them succeed. I cannot wait to hear their stories. I hope to be inspired by them, and I hope they will inspire other men to make the same investment.
I believe that there are a lot of these men out there, but they have gone unnoticed. I am excited to see what happens when these men realize that they are not alone. I hope that we will learn that these men are not an aberration, but a norm. I hope that young women lawyers will know that they have men as allies as they progress in their legal career and find the success that everyone should be allowed to attain.
Much thanks to Tim, for his valuable contributions to Ms. JD, which incluide not only his thoughful insights, passion for our mission, and continuing hard work--but fun and laughter, too!
If you know an incredible man who is an active champion for women’s advancement in the legal profession, consider sending his information to firstname.lastname@example.org so that we can interview him! You can also Tweet with us using the hashtag #TIMInitiative.