It was reported in the NY Times and other news outlets recently that male managers are afraid of mentoring women in the #METOO Era. Maybe you read about it. Or maybe you were watching the discussion between Stephanie Ruhle of MSNBC and her guests last week about those reports. I was watching, and it was incredible. If you did not catch it, check it out here.
Or maybe you were at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland in January and heard the buzz about it there. Apparently lots of males from around the world were sharing their fears.
I have empathy for these men. Really I do. I know that they are uncertain these days about whether their words and actions will be taken wrong and they will be judged harshly. Women also know this feeling. We know just how uncomfortable that kind of uncertainty can be. We have lived it.
When men say that they don’t want to go to dinner alone with a woman or travel alone with one, some of us can relate to that. Some of us have been on the other side of it.
As an associate lawyer in the early 1980’s, I was told by a partner that he was taking me off a case because I was “a temptation” to him and he did not want to travel with me. We were weeks away from a trial in a case that I had devoted a large part of a year’s effort to. He was uncomfortable, and I was about to get one of the biggest opportunities of my budding career taken from me because of his discomfort. So, I had to get over my own discomfort in speaking truth to power, as I stared him down and told him there was no problem. He was not a temptation to me. And we got on the plane and won the case.
Women have been outnumbered in business for decades and misunderstood. We have been told that it was our fault for wearing the wrong clothes or looking one way or another. In other words, we did not look like men.
We have been judged for being too feminine or not feminine enough. We’ve been overlooked and sidelined. Our careers have been put on hold. We just did not fit in.
But, we continued to show up. We took the risk of continuing to look and dress like nothing was wrong with us and power through. And now we have accomplished critical mass, and they want to take it away from us again.
Now it is time for the men to power through. The leadership in professions like law is mostly men, and we need those men to mentor young women lawyers and help turn them into the leaders of the future. We need the men to be as careful with their behavior as we had to be with ours and to stop punishing women for their own bad choices. We need them to step up to the responsibility of creating the culture of care that is desperately needed in this profession.
And we need it now.
Hopefully they have the right stuff to deliver.