Since #MeToo, number of men uncomfortable being alone with a woman at work has doubled

Since #MeToo and sexual harassment became a national conversation this fall, the survey found that male managers are more likely to treat their female subordinates at arms’ length. The survey found the male managers are three times more likely now to say they are uncomfortable mentoring women.

The #MeToo movement was supposed to be a rallying cry for employees everywhere to work together to stop workplace sexual harassment. But as one new study from nonprofit LeanIn.org and online survey platform SurveyMonkey finds, the heightened awareness around the issue is causing a negative backlash that could be holding back women’s careers.

Survey: Male managers who are uncomfortable with mentoring women 3x higher

Since sexual harassment became a national conversation this fall, the survey found that male managers are more likely to keep their female subordinates at arms’ length. The survey found the male managers are three times more likely now to say they are uncomfortable mentoring women.

Male managers are more likely to think twice with even being in the same room as a female employee. Almost 30 percent of male managers surveyed said they were uncomfortable working alone with a woman, a number that’s doubled since this fall.

This male hesitance and discomfort extends to opportunities for networking outside of the office. In a poll of 5,907 working adults, men with senior jobs said they were three times more likely to hesitate in getting a work dinner with a junior-level woman than her male junior-level counterpart.

This research aligns with previous studies that have found that men and women maintain harder boundaries around socializing with colleagues of the opposite gender outside of the office. In one New York Times/Morning Consult poll, over half of women and 45% of men said it was inappropriate to have dinner alone with a person of the opposite gender unless they were your married partner. When asked why they maintained these boundaries, the male and female participants said they were anxious about a workplace interaction turning sexual, flirtatious, or into a case of sexual harassment.

For workplaces to be inclusive, mentoring needs to be available to all

LeanIn.Org founder Sheryl Sandberg explained that when mentoring becomes selective, women miss out on opportunities to advance their career.

“If men think that the way to address workplace sexual harassment is to avoid one-on-one time with female colleagues – including meetings, coffee breaks, and all the interactions that help us work together effectively – it will be a huge setback for women,” Sandberg wrote about the findings in a Facebook post. “The last thing women need right now is even more isolation. Men vastly outnumber women as managers and senior leaders, so when they avoid, ice out, or exclude women, we pay the price.”


To make the workplace inclusive to all employee, everyone needs to be given the same opportunities to network with the managers who can give them their next big break or promotion. To encourage this practice, LeanIn.Org launched a #MentorHer campaign to encourage more male leaders to mentor women. High-profile male leaders like Unilever CEO Paul Polman and Disney CEO Robert Iger endorsed the campaign publicly.

Monica Torres|is a reporter for Ladders and can be reached at mtorres@theladders.com.