Facebook executive Sheryl Sandberg has a message for followers of Vice President Mike Pence’s rule of avoiding one-on-one time with female colleagues: The practice should also apply to men.
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"Don’t want to have dinner alone with a female colleague? Fine. But make access equal: no dinners alone with anyone. Breakfast or lunches for all. Or group dinners only, nothing one-on-one," Sandberg, the chief operating officer of the social media giant, wrote in a Facebook post Tuesday. "Whatever you choose, treat women and men equally.”
Pence famously made headlines in March 2017, when a Washington Post reporter discovered that Pence had said when he was member of the House of Representatives that he had a strict rule of never eating alone with a woman other than his wife and that he especially wouldn’t attend events with alcohol without her either.
That rule, while common in evangelical circles, has ignited both criticism and praise in the media, with some saying the rule deprives women from advancing in their careers and others saying it prevents sexual misconduct.
Sandberg said that comparing the #MeToo movement to grabbing a meal with a female is “deeply concerning.”
“If men think that the way to address workplace sexual harassment is to avoid one-on-one time with female colleagues — including meetings, coffee breaks, and all the interactions that help us work together effectively — it will be a huge setback for women," she wrote, adding that new numbers indicate that this trend of male managers avoiding one-on-one time with females is now getting worse.
According to a survey, published by her workplace- advocacy organization Lean In, almost half of male managers in the U.S. say they are now uncomfortable participating in basic activities with women. Senior men are three and a half times more likely to hesitate to a have work dinner alone with a junior female than with a junior male—and five times more likely to hesitate to go on a work trip with a female.
Sandberg said in the Facebook post that those numbers encouraged her to create a new campaign called #MentorHer, urging men to step up and use their power to support women in the workplace.
“If we’re going to change the power imbalance that enables so much sexual harassment in the first place, we need to ensure women get more mentorship and sponsorship, not less,” she wrote. “That’s how we get the stretch assignments that lead to promotions. That’s how we build the networks that put us on the path to exciting opportunities. That’s how we get the respect – and recognition – we deserve.”
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