The last thing women have been wanting to achieve with the #MeToo movement is gender segregation in workspaces. However, in what is being dubbed as the “side-effect” of the drive against sexual harassment at the workplace, men are alienating women and how. According to a Bloomberg report, across Wall Street, men are adopting controversial strategies like avoiding women in the workplace. No more dinners with female colleagues, don’t sit next to them on flights, book hotel rooms on different floors, avoid one-on-one meetings and so on. In fact, as a wealth adviser puts it, for Bloomberg, just hiring a woman these days is “an unknown risk.” What if she took something he said, the wrong way?
What men don’t realise is that the way to correct culture of harassment is not by blocking out women but correcting their own behaviour. Avoiding women or showing reluctance to hire women for fear of facing allegations of misconduct mounts to gender discrimination. Also, this approach again labels women as the problem, and not the male conduct. To put it starkly, this new unspoken Wall Street law yields nothing, and only worsens the dynamics between the two genders at the workplace.
Alienation is not the solution
The only feasible solution men could find to the “problem” of sexual harassment was to stay away from women. Because it is women who lead to their own harassment by sitting next to men at dinners, or on planes, or merely daring to earn a living by working. The problem is that men don’t see their cumulative behaviour as problematic. They see #MeToo as a problem to their careers, not a caution to behave properly. Now they look at women as a threat to their careers, not as co-workers who deserve to be treated with respect. Their dignity is not what concerns them, but their own reputation is what they are worried about more.
- A new unspoken rule in Wall Street is that men should avoid any close interaction with women to avoid allegations of harassment.
- Once again, it labels women as the problem, and not the male conduct.
- Avoiding women or showing reluctance to hire women from fear of facing allegations of misconduct mounts to gender discrimination.
- This unnecessary vilification of women will cost Wall Street a lot of talent and wealth.
How can we collectively agree to one proper solution to this problem, whose perception differs in both genders? How do we get men to see that the existence of women is not what is problematic, but it is the misogynistic mindset? How do we put it across to them that gender segregation will only worsen things for women, and eventually for men and the Wall Street itself?
Are those in the upper echelons of power simply going to let go of potential valuable female candidates, because men would rather not learn to behave properly?
This unnecessary vilification of women will cost Wall Street a lot of talent and wealth. It will also be hard on talented and sincere women who will face bias because the opposite gender sees them as a threat. No one is going to gain anything from this approach. Clearly, sexual harassment won’t go away from Wall Street by avoiding interaction with women because harassment originates in sense of entitlement. It is high time Wall Street itself accepts accountability, when it comes to sexual harassment and begin to make amends the right way. Predatory male behaviour is just part of the problem. Siding with predators with such half-baked approach, blaming it all on women, and keeping the lid tight on complaints of harassment instead of cracking down on them are enabling factors here. They worsen the extent of the problem and tuning these factors out will curb it to a great extent. But for that to happen the blame needs to shift from women to men and those who enable them.
Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section. The views expressed are the author’s own.