"Men At Work"- #MentorHer

By: Amy Epstein Gluck

No, I’m not talking about the ‘80s band known for hits like “Down Under” and “Be Good Johnny.”

I’m talking about the following types of comments from your company’s male employees:

“How am I supposed to treat women now?”

“I don’t even know what I’m allowed to say anymore.”

“I’m afraid to invite a female colleague to an event without the invitation looking like an unwanted advance.”

Unintended Consequence of #MeToo

Fortune reports that one consequence of the #MeToo movement seems to be the alienation of male mentors. A January 2018 survey of almost 3,000 employed adults by LeanIn.org and (a February 2018) survey of 5900 adults by SurveyMonkey finds that, since last fall and the inception of the #MeToo movement, almost half of male managers are uncomfortable mentoring, working alone, or socializing with a woman.

Uh oh.

But wait, there’s more.

According to the LeanIn survey, “senior” men were 3.5 times more likely to reconsider having a work dinner with a junior female colleague than a male one. Further, five times more senior men report that they were averse to going on a business trip with a junior woman.

As we discussed here, in the workplace we do not want male supervisors, executives, and employees to treat women as if they were toxic—like live hand grenades. The workplace is neither a bar nor a potential dating pool. But that said, we don’t want to unintentionally create “bro clubs” or male-dominated cliques in the workplace either— especially where men are the arbiters of a woman’s promotion or partnership potential. This would impede the mentoring needed to promote women and could increase attrition of female employees.

Moreover, studies show that when organizations employ more women, sexual harassment is less prevalent.

The Rise of #MentorHer

Alarmed by these survey results, LeanIn recruited several high-profile male business leaders, including Oath CEO Tim Armstrong, LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, and SurveyMonkey CEO Zander Lurie to agree to mentor more women.


Why is this so important?

Comments like the ones I opened this post with and these statistics show that women are being frozen out of opportunities for advancement that their male counterparts receive because managers and other higher-ups fear sexual harassment allegations. How will we achieve gender parity in the workplace if these fears become the new normal?

Mentoring will help to avoid such an unwanted result.

Surveys about the significance of mentoring reveal that

About half of women and men say their companies have responded to the #MeToo movement by taking action against harassers, updating their policies, or offering employee guidance or training. This is fantastic!

But, men: don’t stop mentoring women because you’re afraid of a sexual harassment allegation. If you behave like a professional in the workplace, you have nothing to fear!

Women leaders are already underrepresented in the workplace, and if fewer men mentor women, fewer women will become leaders in the future. The 2017 LeanIn study concludes that as long as this imbalance of power persists, women and other minorities are at greater risk of being overlooked, undermined, and harassed.

Employer Solutions

Conversely, when more men mentor women, LeanIn contends that stronger and safer workplaces for everyone will become the norm, and with more women leaders, organizations will offer employees more generous policies and produce better business results. We see that this is true with Marriott, as I wrote about here.

At @Marriott, CEO Arne Sorenson works to integrate Marriott’s diversity focus across its entire business strategy, and, as a result, women rock leadership positions, holding many of the most powerful jobs in the company, including President & Managing Director – Europe, Chief Financial Officer, Global Chief Marketing & Commercial Officer, Global Chief Communications and Public Affairs Officer, and general manager at some of Marriott’s largest hotels.

There are other solutions for employers, and you don’t have to be a prominent CEO to employ them:

  1. Make sure that the women you work with get equal access to supervisors, your C-suite, and decision-makers. If you’re uncomfortable going to dinner with female colleagues, meet everyone for lunch—and encourage other men to do the same.
  2. Be an advocate for women. Put forward the names of women for difficult assignments and promotions, and introduce them to the influential people in your network—these personal connections can launch or advance careers.
  3. Give constructive criticism. Give women specific input on the skills they need to build and tie it to business outcomes so they can gain the expertise to advance.

Need help for your company? Want to know more? Our Employment Group at FisherBroyles stand ready to help you navigate these issues.

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Amy Epstein Gluck

Amy Epstein Gluck has represented individuals and corporate clients in Virginia, Washington, D.C., and various federal district courts for more than twenty years. Ms. Epstein Gluck’s current practice areas include employment law—advising on and drafting employment agreements; handling employment negotiations, severance agreements, noncompete and nondisclosure agreements, “wrongful terminations” and other EEO matters; representation at the EEOC level; advising employers about discrimination laws and how to remain in compliance, and employment negotiations.