The #MeToo movement has taken the nation by storm, generating an onslaught of reactions and support for women around the growing number of incidents being brought to light. Suffice to say, men and women alike have expressed feelings of sadness, anger, frustration and confusion in the wake of allegations. While the nation continues to grapple with how to provide women with security and safety in the workplace and find a path forward, a recent study surfaced an unprecedented impact of the movement.
In a survey published by Lean In and SurveyMonkey, we learn that nearly half of male managers report being uncomfortable mentoring women, socializing with them, or working alone with them. How did we get to this point? In the midst of a #MeToo era, the number of men fearful of mentoring women has tripled.
If not swiftly addressed, and oriented into a plan of action, this fear will have lasting, detrimental effects on the advancement of women in the workplace. After all, it’s not one sole mentor women and men attribute career impact to, but a network of mentors, inclusive of men and women. As it currently stands, “Women are 54% less likely to have a sponsor and 24% less likely to get advice from senior leaders. Women of color are at an even greater disadvantage” (Grant). In a world where mentorship is mission critical to achieve promotions, raises and stretch assignments, the growth in fear needs addressing. It’s also important for male managers to accept that part of their role is to listen and take action, as necessary, even when it’s, potentially, incredibly uncomfortable. In order to allow for positive outcomes from the #MeToo movement, the reaction must not be to close off and allow fear or complacency to govern our progress forward.
Adam Grant, Wharton Professor and New York Times contributor, outlined several tangible practices to tackle the issue:
1.) Accountability—Do the same for men as you do for women, particularly when it comes to offsite outings and group events. If you are uncomfortable in one-on-one situations, treat men and women equally. Do not penalize women for this but rather find ways to address it or work through it.
2.) Address discomfort – Harness the fear, adopting a “tend and befriend” mindset. Ask women directly what they’re comfortable with.
3.) Build Mentor Networks – Utilize small group settings as mentor opportunities: it increases efficiency, and alleviates fear associated with 1:1 interaction. Again, treat men and women equally when you offer mentoring or coaching.
By educating, addressing and acting, collectively we can achieve progress. In a heightened #MeToo climate, let’s commit to #MentorHer.