I went on a bachelor party one weekend and the 12 of us got to talking around a camp fire about the #MeToo movement. What I heard was interesting.
None of the men were willing to be alone with another woman, junior or senior, for business lunch, dinner, or drinks. They were too afraid of being accused of inappropriate behavior.
All the men were between 35-55 years old. They also all had roles ranging from mid-level management to CEO. The men were responsible for over 40,000 employees skewed by one founder and CEO.
As someone who hasn’t worked a corporate day job since 2012, I was a little out of sorts. I went out with female colleagues and clients 1X1 all the time and never worried about being accused of inappropriate behavior. We’d get lunch and go to happy hour all the time.
My direct boss for the last three years of my career was a female Managing Director and she was great. I hope she one day joins the C-suite.
We had sexual harassment and management training while I worked in finance for 13 years. But even on the rough and tumble trading floor, there was never a #MeToo incident in my office that I was aware of.
Nowadays, when you just work with your wife on your small online business (this site), things are pretty streamlined. I guess she could fire me if I pinched her butt, but then who would do all the writing?
Unintended Consequences Of The #MeToo Movement
I thought I may have been in a unique situation during our camp fire gathering with an unrepresentative sample set, but then LeanIn.org and SurveyMonkey released a survey in 2019 that states that 60% of male managers say they are uncomfortable mentoring, working one-on-one, or socializing with women.
That’s up from 45% in 2018!
On the one hand, it’s great to see the #MeToo movement make a big impact in changing the way men treat women in the workplace. On the other hand, more men in leadership positions not willing to mentor or socialize with women may end up stunting women’s careers.
Here are some candid responses from some of the men about working in the current #MeToo movement environment:
“I’m particularly vulnerable as a married man. Not only could I lose my career if I was accused of sexual misconduct, I could also lose my wife, my assets, my family, my reputation, and my life. You might as well stick a fork in me.“
“Even if I’m innocent, we’re now in an era where you are presumed guilty first and then have to spend so much time and money to try and defend or repair your reputation. It’s just not worth it.“
“One solution I have is to try and encourage other women to mentor women. It works because women truly do want to help other women. If I’m alone with a woman in the office, I make sure it is in a glass conference room so everyone can see I’m not doing anything wrong. I also make sure there are always at least three people at a social event, so that hopefully a neutral party can come to my defense. Finally, I never text message female colleagues and always keep my e-mails professional.“
One can get angry at these thoughts, or one can recognize this is how some men truly feel.
Because I’ve been out of the workforce for so long, the only direct woman’s perspective I have is from my wife who ended up engineering her layoff a year after she was passed over for a raise and a promotion in favor of two men her junior. She was upset, as was I.
We made sure that management knew of her disappointment. While she was ultimately promoted six months later, but by then it was too late. My wife didn’t want to remain with an organization that hadn’t recognized her talents.
Fight For Your Daughters, Sisters, And Mothers
At the end of the day, we should always fight for equality. It’s not going to be easy nor will the progress be smooth. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t continue.
We all have or at one point had a daughter, sister, or mother we love or loved. Therefore, the only thing we can do is fight for them.
More women are going to university than men. More women are becoming the primary breadwinners. And as an entrepreneur, I’m excited to see more women starting their own firms and becoming their own bosses.
One of the main reasons why I wanted to be an entrepreneur was so that I wouldn’t have to deal with anybody’s approval or BS anymore. Corporate politics had gotten to be a bear.
It would be foolish for businesses not to fight for equal opportunity. After all, half the population is female and women have tremendous purchasing power.
From SurveyMonkey’s post: #MeToo appears to have spurred companies to greater efforts over the last year. In 2018, only 46% of workers said their company had done something to address harassment in the workplace—this year 70% of employees report that their company has taken action in some way, These include:
- Updating sexual harassment policies (36%)
- Providing guidance about appropriate behavior at work (43%)
- Providing guidance on reporting inappropriate action (28%)
- Stopping or removing problematic employees (24%)
- And workers believe these actions to be effective. Among employees whose workplace has taken action in the last two years, 72% say the changes have reduced the likelihood of sexual harassment and 76% say they have improved the likelihood that an incident of harassment will be handled appropriately.
Progress is being made. It’s up to both men and women to pay attention and understand what’s going on.