I had the opportunity to attend WLN’s first event in the “Leading from Within” speaker series. Gathering in what was formerly known as Chicago’s John Hancock building, IPG employees from a variety of agencies listened to Golin’s Chief Creative Officer Caroline Dettman speak about #HaveHerBack, an initiative she founded to combat the ad industry’s suppression of female creatives and to propel their careers forward.

Opting in with little background, and as one of only a few men in the room, I didn’t fully know what to expect. A lecture, maybe a video or two, and some lunch? Seated next to some close female colleagues, Moleskine in hand, I was excited and open to what came next.

After the event, I commuted back to my desk in a daze. The rest of the workday was a blur, unrecognizable from the last… but the content shared at that event has crossed my mind every day since.

I was shocked to hear stories of the Mad Men-esque harassment women in our industry had experienced in the workplace. Over half of women in advertising have been harassed at work. I was embarrassed for my industry reading the statistics of their underrepresentation. 11% of creative leaders are women, in a marketplace where they have 80% of the buying power. Ultimately, as a man, I was ashamed.

I found myself searching through the browser history of my memories, looking for instances of bias or discrimination that I had witnessed, shrugged off, or worse – unknowingly committed. Paraphrasing Jesse Dienstag, Head of Planning at Golin and ally of #HaveHerBack who spoke at the event, “If men aren’t actively working against this issue, they’re part of it.” The sense of guilt was overwhelming; how could I be a part of the solution, if I wasn’t even acknowledging the problem?

Reflecting on the male archetype a bit (and taking notes from my own personality), I have come to observe a double-edged generalization – men like to fix things. Not exclusively, of course, but to an over-indexing degree. If there is a problem, our mindset is to find a solution and move on. No point in letting it linger – just focus your energy on making the situation better. It’s a simple, yet simple-minded strategy.

A toxic workplace environment is not a simply solved “problem.” It is a complicated, widespread, cancerous, morale and cost-draining epidemic. Entrenched in decades of corporate structures and cultures, prejudice and poor behavior from big egos has been overlooked and even rewarded and often benefitting people that look like me. Women are leaving our industry, under their power or someone else’s, because of the toxicity, and it has created an imbalance that cannot be justified. On top of all that, men might not even see this as a problem worth solving. Candidly and callously, what motive do men have to “fix things” if they are the ones ending up on top – fairly, or unfairly?

None of the issues #HaveHerBack looks to solve can be “fixed” with the waving hand of one leader, or even a small group of motivated supporters. It will take a massive and diverse community, a global holding company or an entire industry to make enough waves to implement real change. As a man, I know that I have undeniable privilege in this world, especially working in this profession. I have to check my privilege, as well as my “fix it” mentality and approach this less like a mountain to climb and more like a movement to join.

Tuesday’s event moved me. It changed my perspective on an issue to which I had not given enough thought. I applaud the leaders and supporters of #HaveHerBack, and while I know I have much to improve on, I want to learn. Listen. Believe. I want to help make my female coworkers feel safe and enabled in our office, agency and industry. I know there are fellow guys reading this that feel the same way.

I am thrilled to be engaging in conversations about bringing #HaveHerBack and 3% Conference guidelines and trainings to my agency. Attending a WLN event or taking part in the Manbassador program is a start, but it’s not about the label or certificate of completion; it’s about being a listener, an ally and an advocate every day.