Careers

This is how #MeToo is affecting women's career prospects

Posted by
Moya Lothian-McLean
Published
Image of a woman holding a #MeToo placard

New research shows that women’s progression at work is being stalled by male fears.

What’s the best response to a women-led movement to stop sexual harassment and inequality? Probably not avoiding women altogether.

Yet that’s the tack men in the USA are taking at work, according to a new survey that claims, in the wake of #MeToo, women’s careers are suffering as senior male colleagues dodge spending time with them.

According to annual research conducted by Sheryl Sanberg’s Lean In organisation and Survey Monkey, 60% of male managers reported that they felt ‘uncomfortable’ engaging in normal workplace interactions with women, including one-to-one meetings and mentoring. This is a 33% increase on the number of senior men who expressed the same concerns just a year ago. 

Meanwhile, more than a third of male managers (36%) say they now actively avoid meeting female colleagues outside of work for mentoring or socializing, thanks to nerves about how it might be perceived.

These fears are stalling women’s careers, say survey leaders. 

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“This is disastrous,” wrote Lean In founder Sheryl Sandberg, in an essay for Fortune

“The vast majority of managers and senior leaders are men. They have a huge role to play in supporting women’s advancement at work—or hindering it. If they’re reluctant even to meet one-on-one with women, there’s no way women can get an equal shot at proving themselves.”

Mentorship has been found to significantly benefit women’s careers in a whole host of ways, including an increased chance of snagging a promotion, achieving a higher salary and greater satisfaction with their career. 

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Women already suffer from a scarcity of mentoring support – a global 2014 study found that 63% of senior level women asked had never had a formal mentor, despite 67% agreeing mentorship was highly important for career progression. 

Additionally, the efforts of male managers to evade female workmates to limit sticky situations, are not even effective. 

Results of the SurveyMonkey research also revealed that women feel less safe at work than they did a year ago and don’t believe those responsible for sexual harassment are sufficiently disciplined for their actions. Worryingly, 55% of respondents also said they believed reporting sexual harassment was more damaging to the victim’s career than the harasser’s.

But there’s one piece of good news buried among the gloom: 70% of workers say their company has taken action on harassment, compared to only 46% in 2018.

Now to just work on everything else. 

Images: Getty

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Moya Lothian-McLean

Moya Lothian-McLean is a freelance writer with an excessive amount of opinions. She tweets @moya_lm.

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