This past week, media reports from major business news publications stated that men on Wall Street are adopting what seems to be self-protecting career strategy by avoiding women. Will it work?
Across Wall Street, men are adopting such strategies in the #MeToo era which could make career life for women more difficult.
Some of the strategies are suggesting that men no longer have working lunches or dinners with female co-workers and “avoid-one-on-one meetings” with women. Other recommendations include not sitting next to women on flights or book hotels on different floors. In one case, a wealth advisor suggested that hiring women would be an “unknown risk.”
Interviews with over 30 senior executives imply many men are spooked by the #MeToo Movement and struggling to cope with how to address women in the workplace.
“It’s creating a sense of walking on eggshells,” said David Bahnsen, a former managing director at Morgan Stanley who’s now an independent adviser overseeing more than $1.5 billion.
Some in the industry are referring to this as the “Pence Effect” where Vice President Mike Pence has a personal rule never to be alone in the presence of women alone or avoid having dinner with a woman without the presence of his wife to avoid the notion of wrongdoing.
In fact, this rule is not often isolated to just Mike Pence. Christian men often try to subscribe to the rule to avoid any situation that would have even the appearance of compromise or suspicion. The Reverend Billy Graham stayed true to this rule and preached on it in 1948 when he started his evangelistic tours across the nation. Graham used this rule, originally known as the “Modesto Manifesto” which is a form of an accountability agreement to his spouse, Ruth. The agreement also applied to financial situations and other commitments of integrity related to church life.
According to an article in Bloomberg published on Tuesday, the authors suggest that adopting such a strategy would allow Wall Street to become “more of a boys club, rather than less of one.”
The article suggests that the real cost to women in that men may avoid any type of working relationship with a woman to prevent a sexual harassment complaint. Attorneys in the article suggest that men could possibly try to back out of the complaint and inadvertently back into a discrimination complaint- a no-win situation, according to the report.
A shift is emerging that is similar to a ‘Pence like effect’ across the country as indicated in the interviews of those that did not want to be named. Many of the men, who work for banks, law firms, hedge funds, etc, stated they feel uneasy being alone with a woman at work. They said they are fearful of a rumor mill and potential liability.
One man who works at an equity firm said he now has a rule that he no longer has business dinners with females under age 35; a rule he gained from the advice of his own wife. In some cases, private office meetings, now leave doors open or a third person is brought in to stifle any notion of improper behavior.
Could this fear be a barrier to women in the workplace?
“There aren’t enough women in senior positions to bring along the next generation all by themselves,” said Lisa Kaufman, chief executive officer of LaSalle Securities. “Advancement typically requires that someone at a senior level knows your work, gives you opportunities and is willing to champion you within the firm. It’s hard for a relationship like that to develop if the senior person is unwilling to spend one-on-one time with a more junior person.”
Men have to step up, she said, and “not let fear be a barrier.”
One man that was interviewed said, “Just try not to be a jerk.”
What do you think?