Skip to main content

Men attending the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, this year were worried about a lot of things. A global economic slowdown. Threats to cybersecurity. Populism. War.

And, several acknowledged at the meeting this past week, mentoring women in the #MeToo era.

“I now think twice about spending one-on-one time with a young female colleague,” said one American finance executive, speaking on the condition of anonymity because the issue is “just too sensitive.”

Story continues below advertisement

In one unintended consequence of the #MeToo movement, executives and analysts say, companies seeking to minimize the risk of sexual harassment or misconduct appear to be simply minimizing contact between female employees and senior male executives, effectively depriving the women of valuable mentorship and exposure.

“Basically, #MeToo has become a risk-management issue for men,” said Laura Liswood, secretary-general of the Council of Women World Leaders.

Last February, two online surveys by Lean In and SurveyMonkey on the effects of #MeToo in the workplace found that almost half of male managers were uncomfortable engaging in one or more common work activities with women, such as working one on one or socializing. One in 6 male managers was uncomfortable mentoring a female colleague, according to the studies, which together surveyed nearly 9,000 adults employed in the United States.

Pat Milligan, who leads research on female leadership at consulting firm Mercer and advises multinational companies on gender and diversity issues, said many of her clients had voiced concerns over saying or doing “the wrong thing” since #MeToo drew broad international attention.

The main focus now, she said, is education. When male executives tell her that they are considering deliberately avoiding women, she tells them bluntly that would be illegal. “Just replace the word ‘woman’ with any minority,” she said. “Yes, you have to talk about the right kind of behaviour, but you can’t stop interacting with women.”

Not everyone is convinced that men have altered their behaviour all that much in the #MeToo era. Stephanie Ruhle, a banker-turned-television anchor, pointed out in a Davos panel that men on Wall Street had never really gone out of their way to promote women before #MeToo, either.

“Could this be an excuse?” she said.

Story continues below advertisement

This content appears as provided to The Globe by the originating wire service. It has not been edited by Globe staff.

Report an error
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

Cannabis pro newsletter