The #metoo Backlash is Growing

#MeToo has shaken up the workplace. Good—it needed shaking up. A safer workplace for women is a better workplace for everyone.

Has #MeToo made the workplace safer for women? I hope so. Has it made it better for everyone? It doesn’t seem like it to me.

Still, we have a long way to go before the workplace is truly equal. To get there, we need men to support women’s careers. That means hiring women, giving them the stretch assignments that get them noticed, and promoting them. It means mentoring and sponsoring women—which in turn means spending enough time with them to really help them progress.

I agree that women who merit these things should have them.

New research by LeanIn.Org and SurveyMonkey reveals that 60% of managers who are men now say they are uncomfortable participating in common job-related activities with women, such as mentoring, working alone together, or socializing together. A year ago, that number was 46%. And senior men are now more hesitant to work with junior women than junior men across a range of activities. One-on-one meetings: senior men are 12 times more likely to hesitate to meet with a woman than a man. Business travel: nine times more likely to hesitate. Work dinners: six times more likely.

This was entirely predictable. Legitimate or not, men fear false allegations of sexual misconduct. See my post from a year and a half ago, Are Men Who Avoid Women at Work Being Childish?

This is disastrous. The vast majority of managers and senior leaders are men. They have a huge role to play in supporting women’s advancement at work—or hindering it. If they’re reluctant even to meet one-on-one with women, there’s no way women can get an equal shot at proving themselves. Instead, women will be overlooked and excluded, which is a terrible waste of talent, creativity, and productivity. It’s not good for business or for anyone.

If it’s not good business, why are these senior leaders, who are presumably experts in knowing what’s good for business, doing this?

How can we close the gender gap if senior leaders and managers—the people with the power to hire, promote, and mentor—choose men for too many of the plum assignments requiring close collaboration?

You can’t. You have to address the reason that they are doing this.

How is that fair? How is that good for business?

How is allowing men to be fired based only on allegations fair? How is that good for business?

There’s not a company in the world that can afford to leave talent on the sidelines because that talent is female. But that’s what will keep happening unless all of us—especially men—commit to doing better.

Neither can companies afford to kick talent out the door because that talent is falsely accused. Men will continue to protect themselves and their employees against false allegations unless all of us–especially women–commit to respecting the presumption of innocence.

#MeToo kicked off a new era. The culture is changing. Ugly behavior that once was indulged or ignored is finally being called out and condemned. Now we must go further. Avoiding and isolating women at work—whether out of an overabundance of caution, a misguided sense of decorum, irritation at having to check your words or actions, or any other reason—must be unacceptable too.

Yet avoiding women out of caution isn’t unreasonable, when, in the new era, one’s career can be ruined by an unfounded allegation.

Men, if you’re worried that meeting alone with a woman might not look right, please find a better solution. Uncomfortable with one-on-one dinners? Group lunches for everyone. Don’t want to hold closed-door meetings in your office? Move them to a coffee shop, or just keep your door open. Whatever policy you put in place, apply it to both women and men—and treat everyone respectfully. That’s what being a fair manager looks like.

I don’t disagree with this sentiment, but I think it’s unrealistic to think that managers won’t want to meet one-on-one with their people if that’s how they find they get the best results. If they are unwilling to do so with women over fear of being falsely accused, it’s not hard to see how this could lead to unequal treatment.

Beyond that, it’s time for men to rethink what it means to be a good boss—or even just a good guy. We’ve had many conversations since #MeToo with men eager to say, for the record, they never did anything inappropriate at work and never would. That’s great. But not harassing women isn’t enough. More deliberate action is needed to support women and make the workplace better for everyone. That means taking a hard look at whose work we celebrate and whose talent we invest in. It means making sure our hiring and review processes are as free from bias as possible. It means going the extra mile to mentor and sponsor people—like women—who are often outnumbered and underestimated.

If you want men to go the extra mile to mentor women, it would be best to make sure they aren’t afraid of being falsely accused and having such accusations acted on without evidence.

Our careers have been possible because people along the way believed in us and made sure others knew it. They gave us challenges that let us stretch and prove ourselves and offered generous advice about how to succeed. If a new generation of women is denied that support because men decide that avoiding women is safer and easier than having their backs, it will be a major loss—for women, for men, and for the workplace as a whole.

Clearly men deciding to avoid women because they think it’s safer is what’s happening. Doesn’t it make sense to address what it is that is making men feel unsafe?

Let’s expect more of ourselves and one another. That’s how we’ll achieve a workplace that is truly equal for all.

This platitude isn’t going to help.

It’s sad. I’ve worked with many women over the years, a lot of whom brought a lot to the table. Why should they be punished because of a small number of bad apples–both abusers and accusers? Why should we all miss out on rewards because of the risks caused by these people? I don’t see things improving for anyone, and I see little will to do anything about it.

About jimbelton

I'm a software developer, and a writer of both fiction and non-fiction, and I blog about movies, books, and philosophy. My interest in religious philosophy and the search for the truth inspires much of my writing.
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1 Response to The #metoo Backlash is Growing

  1. Pingback: In Defense of #MentorHer | Jim's Jumbler

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