A new study finds that some unintended consequences have arisen from the #MeToo movement that may be harming women in the workplace.
“Most of the reaction to #MeToo was celebratory; it assumed women were really going to benefit,” researcher Leanne Atwater, a management professor at the University of Houston, told the Harvard Business Review.
Atwater and some of her colleagues had their doubts.
“We said, ‘We aren’t sure this is going to go as positively as people think — there may be some fallout,’” she recounted.
The researchers created two surveys — one for men and one for women — and distributed them to workers in a wide variety of industries in 2018.
To further gauge the impact of the #MeToo movement over time, the researchers sent out additional surveys to different people in early 2019.
The move was designed to put some distance between the original bombshell stories of 2017 and 2018 and workers’ responses.
In a post #MeToo survey, 19% of men said they were reluctant to hire attractive women.
21% said they were reluctant to hire women for jobs involving close interactions with men.
And 27% said they avoided one-on-one meetings with female colleagues. https://t.co/9ctkfeDkNJ
— Harvard Business Review (@HarvardBiz) August 28, 2019
The results were surprising.
For example, 16 percent of men reported in 2018 they would be more reluctant to hire attractive women; that percentage went up to 19 percent in 2019.
In 2018, 15 percent of men said they would be more reluctant to hire women for positions involving close interpersonal interaction. In 2019, the number increased to 21 percent.
One decrease was in the number of men who said they would be more reluctant to have one-on-one meetings with women.
In 2018, 41 percent of men reported they would be reluctant. That number dropped to 27 percent in 2019.
Additionally, 22 percent of men and 44 percent of women said that men were more likely to exclude women from social interactions in the aftermath of #MeToo.
Not all the findings concerning the impact of the #MeToo movement were negative, however.
“For instance, 74% of women said they thought they would be more willing now to speak out against harassment, and 77% of men anticipated being more careful about potentially inappropriate behavior,” the Harvard Business Review noted.
“I’m not sure we were surprised by the numbers, but we were disappointed,” said Rachel Sturm, a professor at Wright State University who worked on the research study.
“When men say, ‘I’m not going to hire you, I’m not going to send you traveling, I’m going to exclude you from outings’ — those are steps backward,” Sturm explained.
As the old adage goes, for every action there is a reaction — and reactions can often be unexpected.
No one knows how the #MeToo movement will play out over time, but for now, it appears a significant number of men have reacted with caution as they decide how best to navigate the new era.
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