A new report by the online mentoring platform, Art of Mentoring, shows that the proportion of Australian men who are uncomfortable about working alone with a woman has increased to 15% from just 7% as a result of #MeToo.
The same dynamic apparently applies to attending an evening event with a female colleague, working closely with women and mentoring: the proportion of men who feel uncomfortable doing these things has doubled since women began revealing their experiences of sexual abuse and harassment online.
A study commissioned by Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In organisation in the US earlier this year into the extent of men’s withdrawal from working with women paints a similar picture.
Almost 50% more senior male managers in America, and 40% more men overall, feel uncomfortable participating in common workplace activities with women, than prior to the public reports.
The fact that nearly half of senior men in the US are now afraid of interacting in such activities as working alone with, socialising and mentoring women – doesn’t exactly bode well for women. Nor does that fact the number of senior men who are uncomfortable mentoring women has more than tripled, from 5% to 16%.
For the love of god. And here I was hoping the idea of this type of backlash was unfounded.
On Monday evening ABC host Leigh Sales asked Pulitzer-prize winning journalist Ronan Farrow directly about this and his answer was reassuring:
“I was talking to a tech executive recently who said, “This is ridiculous. You can mentor young women”, in this case it is a guy so he was talking about the risk of the optics of being in rooms with women and he said, “You can mentor people with the door open in your office. You can travel with people and still have other people around and keep it professional.”
I think for most of us who work with colleagues of all stripes the general rule of just be respectful is enough.
I certainly haven’t felt in my own life where I have young staff and people of both genders around me where I always want to be professional, I haven’t found that there is any restriction as long as I am just being normal and rational and treating people as I would want to be treated.”
Print it out folks and distribute it widely. IT REALLY IS THIS SIMPLE!
If staying professional and respectful with colleagues is beyond a person’s capacity then it is difficult to imagine how their capacity is sufficient to qualify them for a position in any workplace.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Preschoolers are taught to keep their hands to themselves. To refrain from interfering with their peers. To understand personal space. And plenty of them grasp these concepts pretty well before they reach primary school.
If it’s beyond an adult – let alone a senior executive with managerial responsibility – to grasp any one of these concepts then I might humbly suggest their job is well beyond them.
To any man who is uncomfortable with close proximity with female colleagues there is a single rule that ought to keep you out of trouble: unless you are explicitly and clearly invited otherwise keep your hands to yourselves. That simple guys.
(The fact this even needs saying makes the fact we’ve all been caught in this gigantic ruse about the fact it’s women who apparently need coaching on every aspect of navigating workplaces all the more galling. Forget confidence training for women: I reckon it could be time for competence training for men.)