“60% of managers who are men are uncomfortable participating in a common work activity with a woman, such as mentoring, working alone, or socializing together. That’s a 32% jump from a year ago.” That’s just one of the findings from a recently released survey completed by LeanIn.org and SurveyMonkey.
This is a scary time we are in.
Before you go racing to the bottom of the page I am a man. Further I am a man writing about women’s issues.
And I believe men and women need to learn to work together. NOW.
I have an unusual background. I am a man that gets involved in women business issues often. I was the only male speaker at a TEDx event. I have spoken to women’s groups in multiple US states. I’ve traveled to Dublin to speak to the Women’s Inspire Network.
I co-host a YouTube show on Women in Business.
Quite frankly when women do well I do well. There’s something special about mixing the points of view of men and women that produces a better book, a better training or a better speech for our clients. It’s something I want more of in my world.
So I am really bothered than men and women aren’t figuring out how to play well together.
It’s An Awkward Time
Even with a background of supporting women in business that goes beyond, dare I say, what most women can document I still get very awkward encounters in my life.
For instance, I meet a lot of my new business contacts online via LinkedIn.com, Facebook or, more recently, Medium.com. Sometimes we have ideas to exchange. Sometimes we learn from each other.
As mentioned in her recent article I messaged Medium writer Kristi Keller after we found some commonality in some of our articles. Who knows if Kristi and I will talk more, become friends or work on some projects together someday. Too early to tell.
And most of the time I reach out to women (and men) it goes something like that. That’s exactly what happened when I messaged Medium writer Daniel Goldman a few weeks ago.
But when I reach out to women – and it’s only ever happened with women – sometimes I get a very cold or drastic response. One version is “what exactly do you want to talk about?” Or I might get “I only use my social media for business.”
Well, excuse me. And I never suggested I wasn’t contacting you for business. Full of yourself, much?
And I get it – feel free to tear me apart in the comments about how being a woman in business is different – but it’s different.
Men have never responded to me that way. I don’t stop creating friendships with both men and women because I see the value.
But can you see how some men would be afraid to reach out to women? What man wants to approach someone and have them immediately assume the worst about them?
And Men Are Scared
#Metoo is scary for men. A lot of us are listening. Many of us were never the problem.
With one of the biggest issues in a lot of the #Metoo cases being bad communication a lot of men are doing something men do – compartmentalizing. As a man I can tell you there are a lot of times I don’t want to deal with something so I just compartmentalize it.
That’s easy. I don’t have to think about. Studies have shown women don’t tend to use this skill the same way.
So what do a lot of men do?
They just avoid the issue. This might not surprise a lot of lady readers.
What did surprise me? When the #Metoo movement first started I remember hearing other attorneys reporting that men would just avoid hiring women to lessen the chances of sexual harassment claims.
Talk about shocking.
And It’s Not Fair To Women
Many have applauded Vice President Pence’s policy of not dining alone with women. I stand with those that think this is terrible for women.
I get why he’s doing it, but what does it mean for women?
It means the same thing as it means to those women around him as it means for all of the women that can’t travel with senior men in business, can’t have dinner with them, or can’t have 1-on-1 meetings because the men are afraid according to the LeanIn/Survey Monkey Study.
These women are being denied opportunity. And we’ll wonder years from now why more women aren’t in senior roles.
I can tell you from my decades in business a lot happens in a 1-on-1 meeting or a dinner between junior and senior colleagues. If women aren’t participating in these events we have a huge issue for our future.
We Need To Find Answers
We need to find a way to make it safe for men and women to work together.
I don’t have the answers but it is something that is important to all of us.
Communication is clearly key. Understanding boundaries is key.
My world is the future of business and I, personally, want a future of men and women working together. And I don’t just want this because it is the right thing to do. It’s also the better thing for all of us. It’s better for our society.
We need to have a serious conversation on this.
In that vein if you have comments on how you would address this leave them below. I promise to collect your thoughts and write more on this to further this important conversation.
We are all in this together. We all want women to succeed in business (at least most of us do – and we need to overpower those that don’t).
So, what are your answers?
By: The Our Shawn McBride, a speaker, trainer and consultant on The Future of Business, the host of The Future Done Right(TM) Show and long-time business attorney. If you want regular content on the future of business subscribe to get new blog posts from us here.
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