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Women and Men Don't Agree on Harassment (Or Anything Else)

Vivia Chen

August 17, 2018


I keep hearing that men are enlightened these days, that the revelations about Harvey Weinstein shook them up and that they've taken the #MeToo movement to heart. 

But after reading the latest survey about harassment by Working Mother magazine and the America Bar Association in the ABA Journal, I wonder if we're giving men way too much credit. (The survey polled almost 3,000 people who work in businesses and law firms.)

In a nutshell, it finds that while men agree that harassment exists in the workplace, but they don't fully appreciate the magnitude of the problem. What's more, men believe that there are adequate measures in place to fix the problem.

Here's how men and women look at power and harassment:

Sexual harassment: 68 percent of women said they've experienced it, while only 19 percent of men did.

Power: 61 percent of women thought men held a disproportionate share of the power in their organization, while only 37 percent of men thought so.

Institutional tolerance for sexual harassment: 47 percent of women said their organization tolerated bad behavior, while only 30 percent of men thought so.

Confidence (or lack of ) in senior leadership to address the issue: 45 percent of women said they had no confidence in the leadership, but only 24 percent of the men thought the same.

Accountability: Only 38 percent of women thought employees are held accountable for upholding policies against harassment, while 56 percent of men did.

The upshot is that men and women are not on the same page about power and the dynamics of sexual harassment. "When we asked, who holds the power, men say it's not them!" says Barbara Frankel, executive editor of the Working Mother Research Institute at Working Mother Media.

Women don't trust the system (52 percent of women said they report being harassed), while men mostly think that that their institutions and leaders are adequately tackling the problems. Not surprisingly, women didn't express much confidence in men being on their sides. Also not surprising is that men thought they were being terrifically supportive: "[W]hen asked if men and women are allies in reaching gender equality, 54 percent of the men said yes; 31 percent of women said the same," reports the ABA.

What a sad state of affairs. Is there any reason for optimism that men and women will see eye to eye and work as a cohesive unit? "This is new territory for everyone," says Frankel. "We're seeing more people talk about this. It's good that there are more open discussions."

So we're back to that old default: being open and honest about our differences. 



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About The Careerist

The Careerist takes an inside look at how lawyers shape their careers and manage their lives. The blog aims to dissect developments in the profession, provide useful information and advice, and give lawyers a platform to voice their views. The goal is to provide a fresh, provocative take on the state of lawyering.

About Vivia Chen

Vivia Chen

Vivia Chen, The Careerist's chief blogger, has been covering the business and culture of law firms for a decade. A former corporate lawyer, Chen is fascinated by those who thrive (as well as those who don't) in the legal profession. Her take: Success in the law (and life) doesn't always travel a linear path. If you have topics you'd like to discuss or information to share, contact her: VChen@alm.com

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