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How men's fear of sexual harassment allegations hurts women

The #MeToo movement has led to more women coming forward to report sexual harassment and even assaults by men who have the power to control their professional futures. A recent survey, however, has revealed a negative impact of the movement. The fear that it's instilled among some men has made them afraid to have one-on-one interactions with female subordinates.

In the survey, which was conducted by SurveyMonkey and LeanIn.org, 60% of men in management positions reported that they aren't comfortable socializing with or even mentoring women in junior-level positions. That's a 32% jump from the percentage of men who said that in the previous year's survey. More than a third (36%) admitted that they actually avoid socializing or mentoring women who are their subordinates because they are "nervous about how it would look."

The men surveyed who were in lower managerial positions were less likely to share these concerns. In fact, senior-level male managers were a dozen times more likely to balk at having a one-on-one meeting with a female colleague.

These findings are troubling because they indicate that women may be less likely to have the opportunities to learn from men at senior levels in their organizations. They may also miss out on important opportunities that their male colleagues take for granted because senior managers may be hesitant to meet with them alone, whether outside of work or even in the workplace.

Sheryl Sandberg, LeanIn.org's founder and Facebook's chief operating officer, said that the survey findings indicate "we're in a bad place." For one thing, she asks, "How do you get promoted without a one-on-one meeting?" She says that "it's not enough to not harass us. You need to not ignore us either."

When women are denied opportunities to advance in the workplace because male managers are more comfortable dealing with other men than women, that's a form of discrimination. While that may not be as easy to prove as some other more blatant forms of discrimination, it's important to be able to recognize it when it occurs.

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