The Sunday Times reported on a survey which found that 40% of male managers in the UK say that, since the inception of the #metoo movement, they are uncomfortable participating in normal work activities with woman such as mentoring, working alone and socialising.
The good news is that men are increasingly reflecting on the perception and implications of their behaviours in the workplace. But the #metoo message hasn't landed correctly if the "40 percenters" (I'm trademarking that) are withdrawing from interacting with female colleagues. That sort of insular behaviour is the opposite of what #metoo is about for men. We need to step up, not step back.
Here's two points that (I hope) go without saying.
• Interacting in a normal way with female colleagues does not create a real risk of sexual harassment allegations. The allegations of sexual harassment against individuals that we employment lawyers see arising in workplaces do not stem from normal interactions.
• Denying mentoring opportunities to female colleagues is hindering equality in the workplace (as well as being discriminatory of itself). The infamous "Mike Pence rule" – espoused by the US Vice President – whereby he won't eat alone with a woman (other than his wife), is the kind of thing that perpetuates inequality (as well as being discriminatory of itself).
Surely the lesson here is that workplace training on equality and sexual harassment should focus not only on the bad behaviours that have no place at work, but also on the good behaviours men should exhibit: supporting, mentoring and advocating for female colleagues.
So, gentlemen, I have a simple ask. Please don't be a 40 percenter. Step up, don't step back.
For those who may be interested. We work with various experts, including psychologists and reputation management specialists, in delivering anti-harassment training. For more information about our training, please do contact any member of the team.
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