Because more women have begun to speak out about sexual harassment and sexism they’ve experienced in the workplace, female employees have a new threat to their careers: being avoided by their male bosses.
New research released by Sheryl Sandberg’s LeanIn organization, which advocates for equal pay and equal advancement opportunity for women, found that in this post #metoo/#timesup world, “60% of male managers in the United States are afraid to do a one-on-one activity with a woman, including having a meeting,” Sandberg told Julia Boorstin on a CNBC interview Friday.
Sandberg says senior male managers are also hesitating when it comes to business travel with their female employees as well as 1:1 dinners and that this number is on the rise since last year, up 33%.
What that amounts to is a large percentage of male managers are not mentoring their female employees. They are avoiding them.
“And the problem with that is women already weren’t getting the same mentorship that men were, particularly women of color. And no one has ever gotten a promotion without getting a one-on-one meeting,” Sandberg said.
The top reason they gave for this behavior was that they were concerned about how how being alone with a woman from work would look.
“Men and women need to be able to travel together, they need to be able to go to meetings together, go to meals together,” she said. And if a man is afraid of being unjustly accused of wrongdoing, which is statistically rare, Sandberg points out that a 1:1 dinner can occur in a public space like a restaurant.
“It is really important not to harass anyone. But that’s pretty basic. We also need to not be ignored,” Sandberg said.
The ironic part is that even if a male manager is avoiding being alone with his female employees out of a sense of trying to set a good example, he may actually be creating the exact environment that allows sexism and sexual harassment to thrive.
When women are not being mentored as they ask for more responsibility, the odds of more women rising to leadership roles lessens. And research shows that sexual harassment is twice as common in male-dominated organizations than in organizations where women and men both have seats at the leadership tables. Such cultures create a toxic workplace for all employees ( men and women) not to mention that harassment is illegal.
As for the men that still think it’s best to never be seen alone with a female employee, Sandberg points out an obvious alternative.
“If there is a man out there who doesn’t want to have work dinners with a woman, then he shouldn’t have work dinners with a man. You know, group lunches for everyone if that’s how they feel,” she said.