A recent survey conducted by LeanIn.org suggests that the answer to that question might be yes.
#MeToo in a new light?
Back in 2017, the #MeToo movement began making national headlines. We wrote about the movement and what employers should do in a post-#MeToo world here in 2017 and again here in 2018. With #MeToo in the news on almost a daily basis back in 2017 and early 2018, women everywhere were more comfortable coming forward and reporting harassment and telling their stories. Women felt empowered, but has sharing their stories hurt them in other ways?
According to LeanIn.org’s survey, women may be receiving less support at work from male managers and may be hindered in their ability to seek career advancement in the post-#MeToo world. In the survey, 60% of male managers reported that they were not comfortable participating in common work activities—mentoring, working alone, or socializing—with women. To put that into perspective, according to LeanIn.org, just a year ago that percentage was about 32%. The survey also noted that senior-level men were 12 times “more likely to hesitate to have 1-on-1 meetings” with junior female employees. According to the survey results, 36% of men said they avoided mentoring or socializing with women because they were concerned about how it might look.
Is it discrimination?
If male members of management continue to distance themselves from mentoring, working alone with, and socializing with women, they might be creating legal liability for your business. For example, while work performance is always a factor in decisions regarding promotions, skills learned through mentoring and workplace connections and relationships also play an important role. If a female employee is denied a promotion due her lack of mentorship and/or workplace connections and relationships, and she did not have access to those things like her male colleagues did simply because of her gender, the employer could be subject to a gender discrimination lawsuit.
The survey results also included information about how employees thought their employers were doing with addressing sexual harassment. 70% of employees, compared to 46% in 2018, reported that their company was doing more to address sexual harassment, but still 3 of 10 surveyed reported that they believed high performers are “never or rarely held accountable when they harass someone.” The survey’s results can be found here.
Although the #MeToo movement brought important positive changes to the workplace, businesses need to continue to be proactive and take steps to create a culture free from harassment and discrimination. While focusing on addressing harassment, employers must remind employees, including managers, that they cannot engage in other forms of discrimination either.