Poll: Women and men uneasy being alone together for business meetings
- A new Morning Consult poll for the The New York Times found that both women and men are uncomfortable with one-on-one business meetings with members of the opposite sex. One-quarter of those polled disapprove of such meetings. Morning Consult is a a polling, media and technology firm.
- The survey also showed that about two-thirds of the respondents think they should be extra cautious about being around members of the opposite sex at work. Most of the women polled and about 50% of the men think that having drinks or dinner alone with someone of the opposite sex other their spouse is inappropriate.
- Survey results generally found that women were a bit more likely than men to feel that one-on-one interactions were unacceptable. Respondents who were more likely to feel the same were Republicans; rural-area dwellers, Southerners and Midwesterners; people with less than a college degree; and the very religious, especially evangelical Christians.
As the article points out, women's fear of being sexually harassed and men's concerns about being accused of sexual harassment likely account for some of the survey's results.
However, workplace biases can set back women career-wise. One-on-one meetings are how many business agreements and initiatives are launched. When women feel intimidated or locked out of such meetings with men, their chances of showing what they know and can do are diminished. Likewise, but perhaps to a lesser degree, when men fear meeting one-on-one with women, they might miss out on what many capable women in the workplace have to offer.
Some of this behavior could be rooted in gender stereotypes that hold all workers back. Changes in the treatment and expectations of women and dismissing those stereotypes might pave the way for better working relationships in the long haul.
Employers can help initiate change with practices that promote positive collaboration among workers, regardless of gender, and rigorously enforce anti-discrimination and sexual harassment policies. This might even require undoing and recreating a new workplace culture, much like Uber is trying to do.