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#MeToo and Mentoring

March 24 2021 - Mentoring has been highlighted for its importance in career development but recent publicity for the #MeToo movement may have had some unintended consequences on the practice.

Recent analysis of surveys conducted in 2018, a year after Hollwood revelations of sexual assault and harassment, showed that women might be missing out on mentoring because male managers were afraid of potential misconduct allegations.

The paper 'A Multivariate Analysis of Workplace Mentoring and Socializing in the Wake of #MeToo', published in Applied Economics was co-authored by RMIT University Professor Andrew R. Timming and Professors Michael T. French and Karoline Mortensen at the University of Miami.

Andrew Timming said:

"Workplace relations between males and females have changed over the past two years. Male managers are significantly less likely than female managers to mentor or interact one-on-one with female employees."

"We found that male managers were less likely to work one-on-one in an office with the door closed and less likely to have a late-night dinner with female employees."

However, the research still showed a significant portion of female workers saying they were willing to be mentored by older male employees, many holding occupying senior posts.

The research involved 2,000 participants in the United States and included two surveys. One was administered to female employees and another distributed to both male and female managers.

In the first survey, over 1,800 female employees were asked about their level of comfort and willingness to be mentored by an older male co-worker. 38% of females under 35 years of age said that their interactions with males were 'very to somewhat different today than they were 1-2 years ago' - prior to the #MeToo movement. But only 11% of female participants overall reported an unwillingness to be mentored by an older male co-worker.

In the second survey, 12 photographs of employees were presented to more than 200 male and female managers. They were then asked three mentoring questions for each of the photographed individuals.

Female managers showed greater willingness and likelihood to mentor female employees than male employees.

By contrast, male managers were significantly:

  • Less likely to mentor female employees
  • Less likely to work one-on-one with female employees behind closed doors
  • Less likely to have a late-night dinner with female employees.

According to Andrew Timming:

"Women are clearly still willing to be mentored by older males, but opportunities for such mentoring may not be as forthcoming - as seen in our second survey."

"Although we can't say with absolute certainty whether the #MeToo movement caused this reluctance, it seems reasonable to conclude that it may have played a role."

Andrew Timming added that despite being conducted among US employees, it was also relevant to Australia and similar countries that have experienced their own #MeToo movements.:

"Aside from cultural similarities between the US and Australia, both countries have recently experienced allegations of rape and sexual misconduct."

"This research is critical for everyone in the workplace, male and female alike, across Australia. We need to ensure that women don't miss out on workplace mentoring opportunities because males fear misconduct allegations."



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