by Maria Berkowitz –
The #MeToo movement, which gained awareness in the fall of 2017, empowered women to speak up about sexual harassment and sexual assault, especially in the workplace and urged companies to take the issue more seriously. However, many believe it has gone too far because companies seeking to minimize the risk of sexual harassment are instead minimizing contact between female employees and senior male executives, depriving women of effective mentorship and decreasing the opportunity for growth and leadership within a company.
Maclean Trainor, a Risk and Financial Advisory Consultant at Deloitte, says he doesn’t necessarily think men are purposefully trying to limit opportunities for younger women but that they are all looking out for themselves so they don’t get any repercussions.
Lean In and SurveyMonkey surveyed 9,000 employed adults in the United States and analyzed how the response from the #MeToo movement affected men and women in the workplace. The study found that half of the male managers felt uncomfortable engaging in one or more common work activities with women and one in six male managers felt uncomfortable mentoring a woman.
Caroline Rector, an investment analyst at Credit Suisse, said, “The male mentor that I was assigned during my internship only ever got coffee with me before five o’clock, probably because he thought it looked inappropriate since he was about 60 and I was 22. Many of my male colleagues would go out to dinner or get drinks with their mentors and had a completely different experience.”
Trainor believes that this is not a single industry problem but that it is especially significant for women in male-dominated fields.
Bloomberg’s Gillian Tan and Katia Porzecanski interviewed a range of men on Wall Street. According to their report, “many of the men interviewed acknowledged they’re channeling [Mike] Pence, saying how uneasy they are about being alone with female colleagues, particularly youthful or attractive ones, fearful of the rumor mill or of, as one put it, the potential liability.” In the process of adopting controversial strategies for the #MeToo era, men are making life even harder for women.
“The mentoring issue is huge because your mentor is usually the one who propels your career forward and pushes you up the ladder so if you don’t have a strong relationship from the beginning it’s tough to find opportunities,” said Rector.
Even though over 200 prominent men have lost their jobs and were succeeded by women, Fortune 500 companies remain to have a gender imbalance. According to the New York Times, of the Fortune 500 companies, only 24 have female chief executives. Moreover, data from the United Nations shows that while the number of female heads of government has more than doubled since 2000, they still make up just six percent.
“I think that promoting a mentorship program is something that is very important in establishing a proper professional environment that all employees can thrive in. I believe that could be a solution to this problem,” said Trainor.