Gender Caution in the Workplace

written by CHRC
7 · 18 · 17

In a poll conducted for The New York Times, nearly two-thirds polled say people should take extra caution around members of the opposite sex at work. Some people avoid individual interactions with the opposite sex for ethical or religious reasons, but many fear sexual harassment, or being accused of it. Unfortunately, “organizations are so concerned with their legal liabilities, nobody’s really focused on how to reduce harassment and at the same time teach men and women to have working relationships with the opposite sex,” said Kim Elsesser, author of “Sex and the Office: Women, Men and the Sex Partition That’s Dividing the Workplace.” In fact, when men avoid one-on-one interactions with women, research shows it puts women at a disadvantage, even stalling professional growth. Establishing protocols and using caution can be good, but men and women need to figure out how to work together.

My first reaction to the results of this poll: I was sad. So I sat back and reflected on it for quite some time. Of course I would really like to know more about the questions and data collection, knowing that statistics can be skewed by those selected for polling, the sequence in which the questions are asked, etc.

I do NOT want to minimize or discredit anyone’s response. I believe that those responding did so truthfully and based on their own experiences.  I am sad that their interactions and experiences have led them to feel this way.  I really worry that these responses and the resulting articles could influence young professionals of any gender and prevent them from gaining access, experience, and mentoring that could make all the difference to their professional development.

But in the end, after all my reflection, I am left with an overwhelming sense of gratitude.  It starts with the vast majority of male students and male teachers I encountered when I was one of a handful of girls who integrated an all boy’s high school nearly 40 years ago.  It continued not only with male classmates and professors in college, but in graduate school as well.  When I did encounter harassment in the workplace, how ironic that it was in an open office setting; even without walls, words can create a hostile environment and demean someone based on their gender.

Often, traveling for work required many dinners with male clients or co-workers.  I have tried to recall even one incident where someone hinted or made an inappropriate suggestion.  I cannot. I wouldn’t be the professional I am today without having spent some very long hours, on some very complicated projects, well after 5.00 o’clock, without some amazing mentors and colleagues, many of whom were men.  I thank them: for imparting knowledge, instilling trust, and suggesting nothing else. Read More Here

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