On Wall Street, men are “walking on eggshells” around women. Men are adopting new rules and draconian tactics to avoid being in contact with women, in case they get caught up by #MeToo. No more dinners with female colleagues. Don’t sit next to female colleagues on flights. Book hotel rooms on different floors. Avoid one-on-one meetings. Some men won’t meet with women in windowless rooms or get on elevators alone with them.In fact, hiring a woman these days is “an unknown risk.” What if she took something he said the wrong way?
A recent business survey found that 60% of male management are uncomfortable mentoring, socializing one-on-one and participating in common workplace activities with women at work. The #MeToo movement has come at the price of mentorship, networking, and development opportunities for women. Men in senior management positions are 12 times more reluctant to engage with junior-level women. This is a serious stumbling block for women working to advance their careers, no one has ever obtained a promotion without getting a one-on-one meeting. Women need that one-on-one time to get the mentorship and sponsorship they need to succeed.
This behavior could wind up backfiring because treating women differently in the workplace can end up forming the basis for a discrimination suit.
The reasons why men are pulling back from women interesting: Thirty-six percent of the men surveyed said because of how it could look to others, Others feel a heightened awareness that their actions could make female colleagues uncomfortable, men are also concerned that some women fabricate claims. While that is a small percentage overall (around 5% ) it is still some 30,000 false claims a year. Even if the odds are low, many men believe if you are accused, even wrongly, it can disrupt your whole life.
John Singer, a lawyer who gained attention for his work with men who’ve been fired for sexual misconduct says men are either scared to be alone with female colleagues or clients or more skittish about what to say. He confirmed that male and female clients both have told him that women are getting excluded from meetings and social outings. This makes it harder for women to simply do their jobs, meet with clients or team up on sales calls.
So how do we address this situation? It will take behavior change, which admittedly will take considerable time and not be without some pain, for both sexes. It will certainly not be by eliminating male-female interaction. Sexism and harassment are complex issues rooted in entrenched attitudes, institutional structures, and countless other factors.
Men need to play an active role in supporting female colleagues and giving them space to succeed. The first step is to close the gender gap at work, from the entry level all the way to board level. When companies employ more women in leadership positions, sexual harassment is less prevalent. Organizations with more gender equality have fewer problems with misconduct. And when women hold more leadership roles, company profits are higher and workplace policies are more generous. Supporting women makes companies stronger and safer. To get there, men need to be part of the solution.
For men, it isn’t just the right thing to do to mentor and sponsor women, it’s actually a good thing to do for your because if you’re the most senior CEO or the most junior person, if you can work better with half the population, you are going to outperform. The LeanIn survey asked senior women how they felt about interacting with more junior men. Women had no hesitation in having a one-on-one meeting with a man.
I guess the short term solution is to ensure there is another person at a meeting, or at lunch or in any other situation where actions or words could be misinterpreted.
What do you call a man that has lost all of his intelligence? A widow.(Don’t blame me, my wife picked it out.)