Shoosmiths has received an online kicking for programming a panel discussion on International Women's Day about "gender equality, diversity and inclusion" from the perspective of men.

The firm tweeted encouragement to "Book your place at our alternative spin to #InternationalWomensDay2020 where we'll be discussing gender equality, diversity and inclusion from the perspectives of predominantly male 'champions of women' on our GOOD Guys panel".

The invitation attracted widespread derision. Matrix Chambers barrister Kirsten Sjøvoll tweeted, “Fed up with all female panels? Want to know what men think IWD is all about? Tired of men not having a voice on the one day a year dedicated to women and women’s rights? Worry not, Shoosmiths has you covered.”

Other reactions ranging from baffled to miffed, with people asking, "Why on Women's Day do we even need men's opinions?", "Why does International Women's Day need an alternative spin?" and "What is wrong with you? One day a year for women and you do this" (exploding head emoji x 3).


Some were convinced it was a joke, with one tweeter incorrectly advising, "It’s a parody people calm down."


To celebrate IWD, this story is illustrated with a picture of a man. Solidarity!

If only it was International Woman’s Day, because although the panel features three men, it has found space for one female, Stephanie Boyce, the Deputy VP of the Law Society. It will also be moderated by two women.

The firm responded, "We understand there are lots of views* on this subject but are proud to be hosting this important discussion based on the GOOD Guys programme, developed by the US's National Conference of Women’s Bar Association with US-based Institute for Inclusion in the Legal Profession".

GOOD Guys chipped in on Twitter to explain that it was created "by women for women and diverse individuals to involve male leaders in the conversation about diversity, and inclusion and break out of the echo-chamber! GOOD Guys are carefully selected by our committee to encourage other men to get on board!!"

The organisation's website explained that GOOD Guys, "is a program designed to break the impasse in women’s advancement by engaging people who have been missing from the conversation for too long – the GUYS!" It advises that men brave enough to speak up should be given an award. "Each male invitee is given a ribbon identifying him as a GOOD Guy, and all GOOD Guys present are honored".

A male defender on the RollOnFriday Discussion Board said the mixed sex panel "sounds better than a forum for women only asking itself 'why aren't men listening'?"

"I know a few who work there", countered another commenter. "I’d call them to lol but I just heard the collective smashing of heads rebounding off desks at such pace they’re probably out for the count".

*ie moans from gobby women, calm down love, etc etc

Tip Off ROF


Ahem 06 March 20 08:55

It’s a bit misplaced but excluding men will not help anyone, just as having an all female panel and all female audience is like sitting in an echo chamber. I’ve asked countless women to participate in talks, panels etc. Always always ask women first. But each and every time and the women say no. And then other (male) panelists say they won’t appear on an all male panel and need some diversity. Sometimes those trying to help can never win.

A Chappers 06 March 20 09:11

This is extremely clumsy of a firm that should know better. That being said, I do worry about some of the reaction to it and what that says about the general feeling towards these issues. Sure, they have royally messed the bed on this one, however the comments suggesting men have no place discussing the complex issues around diversity and inclusion cannot be right.

I am firmly behind greater inclusion and diversity (as surely any rational person is!) as it directly affects my wife, sisters, friends, daughters, cousins. The fact I am a man should not mean that I am removed from the discourse on these kinds of issues. Polarising the sexes by telling one group that they cannot be part of the discussion does not help and will only serve to strengthen the resolve of the minds of people that need changing. If we're saying men are the baddies who hold all the cards, surely it makes sense that we need to include everyone in this debate to progress the cause that the majority of us want to succeed.

Anonymous 06 March 20 09:17

Agree with 8.55. Women should be at the forefront of conversations about feminism and equality, but like it or not men make up half the population and so they have to be part of the progress we make as a whole. 

real feminist 06 March 20 10:17

Are we missing the point that this is an event created by women who think men’s voices are also important in the advancement of equality between the sexes? Can’t have conversations like this in a vacuum with just women! 

Anon 06 March 20 11:14

Equality in the workplace is an economic issue, not just a "women's" issue. Men should absolutely be talking about it. Although it would have been nice to see a more mixed panel in this case, I don't think the level of criticism is fair.

Anonymous 07 March 20 22:05

Fine.  Men can mansplain diversity and women's equality.  Just not, you know, on International Women's Day.

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