“Group lunches for everyone.”
A large and growing majority of men feel uncomfortable interacting with the women they manage in the wake of the #MeToo movement, according to a survey released Friday by LeanIn.org.
Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, the founder of LeanIn.org, responded to the results by coming out in defense of the feminist uprising. She blamed men for the findings.
“Men need to step up,” she told “CBS This Morning. “We need to redefine what it means to be a good guy at work.”
The survey of 5,000 people found that 60 percent of male managers are hesitant to mentor or socialize with junior-level women – a one-third increase from last year. Compared to their willingness to perform such roles for junior-level men, male managers said they were:
- 12 times less comfortable holding one-on-one meetings with junior-level women.
- 9 times less comfortable traveling with junior-level women.
- 6 times less comfortable having work dinners with junior-level women.
The managers explained that they are inclined to keep their distance from female subordinates for fear they will be accused of sexual harassment.
The upshot is that women are getting less support and opportunity, potentially stunting their careers.
At the same time, the percentage of women who said they feel safe at work fell since last year – from 91 percent to 85 percent. Respondents seemed confused about whether harassment is increasing or decreasing. Roughly equal numbers said it was, it wasn’t and that they don’t know.
#MeToo has seen many successes in its bid to eradicate sexual misconduct in the workplace and beyond, including the toppling of many high-powered men. According to the LeanIn.org survey, 70 percent of employees said their company has “taken action to address sexual harassment,” a 46 percent increase from last year.
However, critics have long warned that the movement is going too far. In addition to stoking resentment among men, some have argued, #MeToo risks fulfilling its own vision of women as victims.
LeanIn.org’s finding were not the first evidence that the naysayers have a point. Last year, Bloomberg News reporters interviewed 30 male Wall Street executives and observed that “many are spooked by #MeToo and struggling to cope.” According to the report, male managers are avoiding even hiring women in an attempt to avoid sexual harassment allegations.
“It’s creating a sense of walking on eggshells,” said David Bahnsen, a financial adviser who oversees more than $1.5 billion.
Yet many people responded to such setbacks by calling for more activism, not less. Half of the employees surveyed by LeanIn.org said punishment for sexual harassment needs to be harsher.
The same pro-#MeToo sentiment was apparent in the media coverage of the LeanIn. org survey.
In her appearance on CBS Friday, Sandberg denied that the poll reflects failures of a feminist approach to work, which she famously championed in her 2013 book “Lean In.” What is needed now, she said, is a systemic overhaul of the workplace in the name of full gender equality.
“The problem is that even before this, women – and especially women of color – do not get the same amount of mentoring as men, which means we’re not getting an equal seat at the table, and, you know, it’s not enough to not harass us. You need to not ignore us either,” she said.
“If there’s a man out there who doesn’t want to have a work dinner with a woman, my message is simple: Don’t have one with a man. Group lunches for everyone. Make it explicit, make it thoughtful, make it equal.”
Sandberg continued: “It’s not enough to not harass, and I think too many people think that’s sufficient. That’s necessary, that’s a basic, but it’s not sufficient.”