The #MeToo movement has brought many sexual abusers to justice, but it has also frayed working relationships between men and women, a new survey suggests. Unfortunately, it seems to have discouraged successful men from mentoring women.
“Almost half of male managers are uncomfortable participating in a common work activity with a woman, such as mentoring, working alone, or socializing together,” LeanIn.org reported.
Leanin.org, an organization co-founded by Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg to “empower more women to achieve their ambitions,” teamed up with SurveyMonkey to conduct the online survey of 2,950 employed adults in late January. Perhaps not surprisingly, the men in positions of leadership have grown wary of working with women who could accuse them of sexual assault and cost their careers.
Almost 30 percent of male managers reported being uncomfortable working alone with a woman, more than twice the amount before the #MeToo movement.
Three times as many male managers reported being uncomfortable mentoring women, in the wake of the #MeToo movement. Early last year, only 5 percent of male managers said mentoring a woman would make them uncomfortable. This year, 16 percent said so, meaning that 1 in 6 male managers hesitate to mentor a woman.
As for the movement itself, working men and women mostly agreed about the revelations of sexual harassment. Almost half (47 percent) said they were not surprised by the revelations, while a quarter (25 percent) said they think there are worse revelations to come.
About half of both working women and men said their companies have responded to the #MeToo movement by taking action against alleged harassers, updating their policies, or offering employee guidance or training. The other half, who said their companies have not changed their policies, seemingly did not explain in the survey whether or not their companies already had strong policies against sexual assault.
A second poll conducted this month showed that senior men are more than three times more likely to hesitate to have a work dinner with a junior-level woman than with a junior-level man. This poll also found that senior men are five times more likely to hesitate to travel for work with a junior-level woman.
For all the outrage and criticism Vice President Mike Pence received for applying the Billy Graham rule — never eating dinner alone with a woman besides his wife — it seems the #MeToo movement has encouraged many men to follow suit.
Refusing to mentor a woman arguably goes beyond the Billy Graham rule, however, and as LeanIn.org rightly pointed out, losing mentorship opportunities would be a real career hit to women.
One need not be a feminist or an advocate for “equal pay” to lament the loss of this kind of opportunity, and to encourage successful men to mentor aspiring women.
It is good that women who have been abused have been able to bring justice to their harassers, but the #MeToo movement has also sown suspicion and fear — which actually hurts women.