The #MeToo movement has helped bring the problem of sexual harassment in the workplace to the forefront and has raised awareness about the need to level the playing field between men and women. However, the movement has created unintended consequences that could be hurting women in the workplace.
“Since #MeToo, many men have been hesitant even to reach out to or try to mentor any females, afraid they will be misunderstood and convicted of sexual harassment,” said business coach Stacy Caprio. As a result, women could be unfairly missing out on opportunities to learn from male leaders and to work effectively with male colleagues. That’s why Caprio said men need to get over their fears about a #MeToo backlash and stop tiptoeing around women. Men can and should continue to mentor female employees in order to effectively support women in the workplace.
Challenge Yourself to Understand Why There Is a #MeToo Movement
Before figuring out what behaviors you should adopt and which to avoid to be a good mentor, try to gain some perspective by understanding why there is a #MeToo movement, said employment attorney Nance L. Schick. You can do this by imagining that you’re going to a foreign land where most everyone is physically stronger than you, and they have their own preconceived notions about you based on what they’ve learned about your society from TV, movies and the internet.
“They think you’re not as smart; you think they’re potentially violent, especially if they don’t get what they want from you,” Schick said. “What would you need to feel safer? How would you overcome your implicit biases — and theirs — so you can work together as equals?”
When you can answer those questions, you’ll be in a better position to create a more welcoming environment for women in your workplace.
Treat All Employees Equally
To be an effective leader for women in the workplace, you have to treat them the same way that you treat male employees, said Larry Sternberg, a business coach and co-author of “Managing to Make a Difference.”
“For instance, if you don’t hug the men, don’t hug the women,” he said. “And, don’t exclude a woman, either. If you are going to the ax throwing bar (there are two where I live) with some guys [from work], don’t assume the women won’t want to join the group.”