The #MeToo movement has raised awareness of the problem of sexual harassment in the workplace. However, this increased awareness of what’s acceptable behavior may be having troubling consequences, according to a new study by SurveyMonkey and LeanIn.Org.
In the study, 60 percent of men in senior management positions said that they’re uncomfortable working one-on-one with women who are their subordinates. That’s up 32% from last year.
This includes participating in activities like mentoring and socializing, which are often crucial to advancement in a company and in one’s career. Specifically, the study found that men were hesitant to meet alone or have a work dinner with a junior-level woman or to travel with women on business.
Over a third said they avoided doing any mentoring or socializing with women because of how it might look. They did not have the same concerns with men who are at a junior level.
Sheryl Sandberg, who is Facebook’s chief operating officer (COO) and one of the founders of LeanIn.Org, expressed her concerns about the findings. She said, “The vast majority of managers and senior leaders are men. If they are reluctant even to meet one-on-one with women, there’s no way women can get an equal shot at proving themselves.”
LeanIn.Org’s president says, “Ultimately, this is about closing the gender gap at work, from the entry-level all the way to the top. When companies employ more women, sexual harassment is less prevalent….Supporting women makes companies stronger and safer. To get there, we need men to be part of the solution.”
Unfortunately, the survey found that sexual harassment is still alive and well in many workplaces. Over half of women surveyed reported experiencing some type of sexual harassment — anything from sexist jokes to inappropriate touching.
The good news is that 70% reported that their company was doing something to address the problem. That’s up from 46% last year. However, half said they didn’t think their company had strict enough penalties for harassers, and almost 30% said that harassers who were valuable to the company were less likely to be held accountable.
If you’ve been the victim of workplace sexual harassment and your employer hasn’t dealt appropriately with the situation or if you’ve been penalized for speaking up, it’s wise to find out what your legal options are.