Apparently Men Don't Know How To Not Harass Female Coworkers, So They're Just Avoiding Them

by Valerie Williams
George Marks/Getty

In the wake of #MeToo, it seems men in the workplace don’t know what to do with women unless they can harass them — so they’re avoiding them completely

Once the MeToo movement gathered steam, it became quickly evident that the celebrity women coming forward to accuse Hollywood names like Harvey Weinstein, Les Moonves, Louis CK, and seemingly countless others were just the more visible victims of sexual assault and harassment by men at work. Every day, in offices all over the world, men are treating women like garbage, and apparently, it’s so hard not to be horrible that men at work are deciding to just cancel women coworkers altogether.

A new study from The University of Houston provided some pretty disturbing and depressing information about how men are comporting themselves at work in the post-MeToo world. The research was conducted across multiple industries and included interviews with both male and female subjects in 2018, when the MeToo movement first caught hold, and again early this year after the stories had faded from the news. The results? A whole lot of WTF.

The 2019 results show that 27 percent of men now totally avoid one-on-one meetings with female coworkers. Another 21 percent say they’d think twice about hiring a woman for roles that would mean a lot of one-on-one time. A staggering (and gross) 19 percent would hesitate to hire an “attractive” woman. How lovely.

Even more depressing is the fact that those numbers are up from last year, when only 15 percent of men surveyed said they would treat cute female coworkers differently and possibly not employ them.

Perhaps less depressing is the fact that both male and female survey respondents seem to agree on what constitutes harassment save for three items on a list of 19 that survey respondents were asked to weigh in on. On the ones where they differed, men were more likely than women to term the behavior harassing. Leanne Atwater, a management professor at the University of Houston, says this proves a few things. “Most men know what sexual harassment is, and most women know what it is,” Atwater explains. “The idea that men don’t know their behavior is bad and that women are making a mountain out of a molehill is largely untrue. If anything, women are more lenient in defining harassment.”

These extremely ridiculous results back up another survey from last year released by where a full 60 percent of male managers reported feeling “uncomfortable participating in a common work activity with a woman, such as mentoring, working alone, or socializing together.” That’s up from 32 percent the year before.

Too long; didn’t read? A good third of dudes at work are so afraid of accidentally sexually harassing their female coworkers that they won’t even be alone with them for work purposes. That means less opportunities for women in the workplace, which is obviously not good. If the biggest takeaway from the MeToo movement for men is “just don’t even bother with women,” then we have way more work to do than we thought.