Senior executives on Wall Street are icing out younger female colleagues to protect themselves against potential false, career-ending sexual harassment claims.
This #Metoo backlash against women of limiting regular work interactions can have a chilling effect on the workplace atmosphere and stall upward moves for women in the field.
Bloomberg interviewed nearly three dozen senior executives who work for hedge funds, law firms, banks, private equity firms, and investment-management firms about how their interactions with (junior) female staff have changed a year after the #MeToo movement brought to light workplace sexual harassment in Hollywood, media, and other industries.
Not surprisingly, they’ve adopted defensive strategies meant to head off potential career-ending allegations such as:
Avoid one-on-one meetings with female employees or meetings in rooms without windows.
No more dinners with female colleagues.
Avoid work travel with female colleagues.
Avoid sitting beside female colleagues on flights.
Book hotel rooms on different floors.
Keep distance from female workers in elevators.
Eliminate social functions like after parties.
The effect has been to limit professional development and networking opportunities for women – particularly young women.
As a female financial leader at Wells Fargo explained, “Women are grasping for ideas on how to deal with it, because it is affecting our careers.”
This chilling effect on interactions between men and woman is not limited to Wall Street. Male bosses and mentors across industries are implementing similar strategies.
Earlier this year a LeanIn.Org survey found that male leaders have grown more uncomfortable mentoring (young) women and have pulled back on their interactions with them. For example, nearly half (45 percent) of male managers are uncomfortable participating in an activity with a woman, such as mentoring, working alone, or socializing together. Senior men are 3.5 times more likely to hesitate to have a work dinner with a junior-level woman (39 percent) than with a junior-level man (11 percent) and 5 times more likely to hesitate to travel for work with a junior-level woman.
The year-old #MeToo movement has made it easier for victims of sexual assault and harassment to come forward and seek justice. However, an unfortunate unintended consequence of the #MeToo movement has been that men are afraid to work with women as they did before.
The last thing women’s advancement in the corporate world needs is less opportunity.