How #MeToo Chill Could Back­fire on Women

Policy - - Before The Bell | From The Editor - BY BAR­BARA BAL­FOUR

As the #MeToo move­ment has gained mo­men­tum around the world, one of its un­in­tended con­se­quences is the alien­ation of male men­tors, re­sult­ing in a ma­jor step back­wards for women.

Re­cent stud­ies by women’s em­pow­er­ment non-profit LeanIn.Org re­veal male man­agers are three times as likely to say they are un­com­fort­able men­tor­ing women, twice as un­com­fort­able work­ing alone with a woman, and 3.5 times more likely to hes­i­tate to have a work din­ner with a ju­nior fe­male col­league rather than a male one.

“These study find­ings sup­port what I’ve been hear­ing anec­do­tally, in both my con­ver­sa­tions with se­nior male busi­ness lead­ers at Edel­man and ex­ter­nally,” says Lisa Kim­mel, pres­i­dent and CEO of Edel­man Canada. “Based on the en­vi­ron­ment, the trial-by-Twit­ter ac­cu­sa­tions and the ca­reers get­ting de­stroyed by those ac­cu­sa­tions be­fore get­ting to due process — they said they would start re­treat­ing, and avoid be­ing one-on-one alone with fe­male sub­or­di­nates.”

“At first, I had an al­ler­gic re­ac­tion to hear­ing this — this kind of rea­son­ing as­sumes all women are out to get these men. But then I took a step back. The ma­jor­ity of lead­er­ship roles are filled by male de­ci­sion mak­ers, and if men aren’t pre­pared to pro­vide men­tor­ship and spon­sor­ship to ju­nior women, they won’t get ahead.”

“My hope in bring­ing this is­sue to the sur­face is to en­gage both male and fe­male lead­ers to have con­ver­sa­tions that de­fine the new ‘nor­mal’ in the work­place. These con­ver­sa­tions need to bring women and men to­gether — it shouldn’t be women hav­ing these con­ver­sa­tions all by them­selves.

“If we don’t bring the two gen­ders to­gether, it will re­sult in further po­lar­iza­tion in the work­place.”

Kim­mel was re­cently named the chair of Edel­man’s Global Women’s Ex­ec­u­tive Net­work, which cham­pi­ons pro­grams and poli­cies to help Edel­man reach its global tar­get of a fifty-fifty split in male/fe­male lead­er­ship by 2020. On March 8, the group an­nounced their part­ner­ship with TenT­hou­sandCof­fees, a digital plat­form that fa­cil­i­tates men­tor­ing and net­work­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties among pro­fes­sion­als within the or­ga­ni­za­tion.

“Our goal is to help men and women build con­nec­tions with each other — that’s the crit­i­cal in­gre­di­ent for men­tor­ship, pro­mo­tions, high-per­form­ing teams, in­no­va­tion and cre­ativ­ity within a com­pany,” says TenT­hou­sandCof­fees co-founder Dave Wilkin.

Each em­ployee in the or­ga­ni­za­tion will be given in­tro­duc­tions to new col­leagues who can help them grow in their ca­reer path, thanks to an in­tel­li­gent match­ing al­go­rithm.

“Every­one is pro­vided with clear, ex­plicit ob­jec­tives on how to have a ca­reer-re­lated con­ver­sa­tion that is en­dorsed by lead­ers. They’re given tips and ice­break­ers to con­tinue build­ing those re­la­tion­ships,” says Wilkin.

“Peo­ple are not sure how to do this on their own. And if or­ga­ni­za­tions thought di­ver­sity in­clu­sion was a chal­lenge last year, it’s even more chal­leng­ing this year,” says Vicki Saun­ders, CEO of SheEO, a fund that sup­ports fe­male en­trepreneurs. “Com­pa­nies need to find ways for men and women to build di­verse re­la­tion­ships, be­cause when di­verse peo­ple do come to­gether, we see tremen­dous out­comes.”

That di­ver­sity is also lack­ing in the world of en­trepreneur­ship, par­tic­u­larly with re­gards to fi­nan­cial sup­port. In ad­di­tion to be­ing chron­i­cally down­played and di­min­ished, women-owned busi­nesses are of­ten over­looked by mostly-male ven­ture cap­i­tal­ists and re­ceive less than four cent of ven­ture cap­i­tal.

“Those numbers haven’t changed in 20 years,” says Saun­ders, a se­rial en­tre­pre­neur. “Peo­ple have to pay at­ten­tion to their un­con­scious cul­tural bi­ases to­wards women in lead­er­ship. Shift your lens on how you view the world; no­tice when guys go out for drinks af­ter work and are do­ing deals to­gether, that the women aren’t in­vited.”

By 2026, Saun­ders aims to cre­ate a bil­lion-dol­lar per­pet­ual fund that will ac­tively in­vest in 10,000 fe­male en­trepreneurs ev­ery year with zero-in­ter­est loans.

At the end of the day, bat­tling sex­ism in any set­ting re­quires lead­ers with the courage to have con­ver­sa­tions about whether a prob­lem re­ally does ex­ist within the or­ga­ni­za­tion, says Kim­mel, who fa­cil­i­tated those dis­cus­sions at town hall meet­ings at Edel­man’s Cana­dian of­fices.

“These dis­cus­sions have been in­cred­i­bly pro­duc­tive in shed­ding light from the men on the is­sues they are grap­pling with. Men may not know how to con­duct them­selves in the work­place any­more, whether they can com­pli­ment a woman on her dress or if it’s ok to go out for drinks with a fe­male col­league af­ter work,” she says.

“For women to feel ab­so­lutely com­fort­able, we must fos­ter a cul­ture that al­lows them to be hon­est about how they feel and where there are no ram­i­fi­ca­tions for do­ing so. The #MeToo move­ment is not just our mo­ment but also our huge op­por­tu­nity as women to pro­pel our­selves for­ward. The time is now to be ad­vo­cat­ing for our­selves and one an­other.

“There’s never been so much re­cep­tiv­ity among male lead­ers. When there’s an open po­si­tion, they will now look through the lens of di­ver­sity and gen­der, whereas they may not have been as likely to do so in the past.

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