Most Men Don't Feel Comfortable Mentoring Women — Here's Why

It's no secret that tensions in the workplace have increased in the wake of the #MeToo movement. This tension can be murky and often hard to quantify. How have recent conversations around gender impacted workplace dynamics? A new survey has set out to uncover the answer.
On May 17, LeanIn and SurveyMonkey released brand new research regarding the dynamics between men and women in the workplace. The findings are troubling, but also may hold the key to changing the conversation.
Many women in the workplace have personally experienced some of the shifts in the workplace post-#MeToo. But the research shows that these suspicions are, in fact, a real thing. According to the new study, 60% of male managers feel uncomfortable participating in common workplace activities with women. This includes things such as mentoring, working one-on-one, and socializing.
This year's research found that senior-level men are 12 times more likely to hesitate having one-on-one meetings with a junior woman and six times more likely to hesitate having a work dinner with a junior woman. In fact, 36% of men said they had avoided mentoring or socializing with a woman colleague altogether because they were nervous about how it might look.
Shifting the gender paradigm in the workplace — from one of vast inequality to one of equity — isn't a one-way street. Today's C-suites remain white and male as ever. Among those running current Fortune 500 companies, there are only three black CEOs and 24 women. Both of these categories have dropped significantly since 2017.
Of course, the Fortune 500 list is a small subset of the professional world, and yet these statistics speak volumes. Leadership in corporate America remains incredibly homogenous, and the only way for this status quo to shift is for male leaders to step up and mentor, uplift, and champion the women they work with.
“The vast majority of managers and senior leaders are men," said Sheryl Sandberg, founder of LeanIn. "If they are reluctant even to meet one-on-one with women, there’s no way women can get an equal shot at proving themselves."
In light of these findings, LeanIn is calling on men to do more to support women’s careers — which includes mentoring and sponsoring them. Through their initiative, MentorHer, LeanIn is calling on male managers to do more to uplift their women colleagues. “This is about closing the gender gap at work, from the entry-level all the way to the top,” said Rachel Thomas, president of LeanIn.
Ultimately, there is a long road ahead when it comes to achieving equity in the workplace. Though many concerning gender and racial inequalities persist today, one thing is for certain: Without men's commitment to improving the status quo, it isn't likely to change.
“When women hold more leadership roles, company profits are higher and workplace policies are more generous," said Thomas. "Supporting women makes companies stronger and safer. To get there, we need men to be part of the solution.”
Advertisement

More from Work & Money

R29 Original Series