What’s Okay and Not Okay in the Workplace Today

We’ve heard the conversation before about men being afraid to mentor women. We know many men don’t want to work with women. We know men are afraid to say or do the wrong thing in the post movement era. So what are we going to do about it? “To reverse this trend, it’s time to stop talking about the problem and to start moving forward with positive, proactive solutions,” says Shelley Zalis, CEO of The Female Quotient.
The good news is that almost half of men report being more aware of the discrimination women face in the workplace than they were a year ago, and 34% of men reported having spoken to a male friend or colleague about gender equality in the last six months, according to new research by Promundo. “A lot of men get that the playing field is not fair for women—and for individuals of gender identities,” says Gary Barker, President and CEO of Promundo.

Male and female comfort room signage

Photo Credit: Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

However, despite much more global attention being given to gender inequality and sexual harassment in the #MeToo movement era, the Promundo research found that we may be seeing a backlash:

  • While a majority of women and men think gender inequality is far from being resolved, 35% of men and 22% of women agree that “we give too much attention to supporting female leadership in my workplace.”
  • 35% of men agree that it’s really hard to step in or speak up when they see someone harassing or bullying someone else.

“We need men taking risks, sticking their necks out and speaking up for stuff that’s right, even if it’s not popular,” says Gary. “But the size of these challenges means it can’t just be about a few men. We need more men to step up in order to make this the new normal, and we need the right policies in place.”

We can’t go backwards. It will take 202 years to close the wage gap, according to the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report.

“There is this confusing moment among some men who are paying attention to the #MeToo movement, and thinking, now what? Many men are leaning the right way – showing support and taking action,” says Gary. “The backlash should not be the only story. Let’s not back off. We need to keep moving forward and pushing for the change that needs to be there; let’s get the focus right.”

A step in the right direction is to create the new rules in the workplace about what behavior is appropriate and what isn’t. That’s why The Female Quotient teamed up with Alpha, an on-demand user insights platform, to learn more about what employees think is okay and not okay in the workplace today. There were no big variations in terms of what men thought versus women, so here are the results at a glance.
Infographic from Alpha and The Female Quotient research illustrating what is okay and not okay for a man who is senior to his female colleague
In order to rewrite the rules of the workplace, we shouldn’t be afraid to have the conversation at work about what makes you feel uncomfortable—such as a man telling you that you look nice if that is how you feel—because he may simply be unaware. “What may be okay for one person might not be okay for the next, and it varies across generations,” says Shelley. “Follow the Platinum Rule of ‘do unto others as they’d want done unto themselves.’” For men, don’t assume that your female colleague feels comfortable; just ask. You might say, ‘I’d like to have a meeting with you out of the office. Would you like to go to breakfast, lunch or dinner? Where would you like to go? Are you comfortable with this?’”
“What if we stopped waiting for permission and, instead, started rewriting the rules?  We all have the power to flip the script, transform workplace culture and create the new norm,” says Shelley. After all, we’re in this together; we for we.
You can find more equality insights from around the globe in The FQ Equalitylogue in partnership with Ipsos.