The #MeToo movement, which began in earnest in October of 2017, has put a stark light on ways women have been treated, objectified, and often marginalized in popular culture, society, and at work. Individuals and organizations have looked at their personal and institutional behaviors and practices to identify past failures and opportunities for progress and change – but, like any self-revealing exercise – this hasn’t come without turbulence.
Solving the problem vs addressing the symptoms
At The Kaleidoscope Group, we’ve seen the struggle organizations are sometimes having to productively respond to this opportunity for inclusion. We’ve seen reactionary stances from men, who have often historically held positions of privilege in work relationships with women, now arguing that #MeToo in fact marginalizes them. And, we’ve seen well-intended leadership teams struggle to understand what’s right, how to communicate, and what to do next.
We share a growing concern that one of the response mechanisms to the movement is to alienate and isolate women in general. There’s a troubling notion that the best way to not get implicated or accused of any misconduct or behavior is to not interact with women at all. Often led by men, some companies are considering or enacting policies of protection, requiring men and women to no longer travel together, for instance. Beyond the obviously impractical nature of this response, employment attorneys have also stated that this behavior could actually be illegal.
Some may know this as the “Mike Pence dinner rule” where Vice President Mike Pence has indicated he does not dine alone with women who are not his wife. In this case, the purpose is to go so far as to not even create an appearance of any sort of misconduct.
Segregation is not the answer
“One can see where segregation would have obvious implication in business, where relationships and connections matter.”
Let’s call this position what it is – segregation. It’s important to step back and understand the era that we are in. Thankfully, there has been a huge movement of empowerment when misconduct and inappropriate behavior is being reported and highlighted. And in some cases where behavior is illegal, individuals are being prosecuted. Additionally, the #MeToo movement disrupts the status quo and lets society and leaders know that some behavior is not, and never should have been, acceptable. However, the segregation rule—where women are isolated professionally their male colleagues—is not the answer. Segregation has never been the answer. This has dangerous implications, as it creates a “good ol’ boys“ club professional and social situations.
Beyond the basic impracticality of segregation, it’s important to step back and realize how misunderstood the #MeToo movement and other women empowerment movements are from a societal standpoint. However, we also understand the broader implications that many individuals, organizations, or entities are still missing the point completely in the understanding of creating an inclusive environment.
We believe inclusion means creating an environment where everyone feels that their voice is heard, valued, and respected. When refusing to include all members of a team in basic relationship building events, such as dinners or other social situations, organizations should recognize the clear negative implications.
Inclusion empowers individuals and your entire workforce