Sheryl Sandberg's Post-#MeToo Message Is One We All Need to Hear

Stephanie DeAngelis

There's no doubt that the #MeToo movement has been a catalyst for positive cultural change, and 70% of employees in 2019 reported that their company has taken action to address sexual harassment. That’s a significant increase from only 46% in 2018. However, Sheryl Sandberg points out that it has also sparked a sexual harassment backlash. In a 2018 Lean In study, her team found that "36% of men say they’ve avoided mentoring or socializing with a woman because they were nervous about how it would look," and 60% are hesitant to participate in activities like mentoring, working one-on-one, or socializing because they are nervous about how it would look. That's a 32% increase from 2017.

In addition, senior-level men are much more hesitant to spend time with junior women than junior men. In fact, they are 12 times more likely to hesitate having one-on-one meetings. "This is a step in the wrong direction," Sandberg announced on the Lean In website. "Now, more than ever, we need men working with—and mentoring—women...but instead they're pulling back." Perhaps because 50% of men say that the consequences of harassment are more damaging to their own careers, not victims, according to the Lean In study. However, when more women lead, workplaces are stronger and safer for everyone."

#MentorHer Launch

To combat the backlash, Sandberg and the Lean In team have launched #MentorHer, a campaign to encourage healthy, respectful, and constructive mentorship, regardless of gender. "Not harassing is not enough, says Sandberg. We need men to support women’s careers. That’s how we’ll achieve a workplace that is truly equal for all."

CEOs, managers, and even celebrities have already expressed support via social media. Kate Bosworth said of her husband and mentor, "He supports me in everything that I do and he's inherently interested in female stories. He's not afraid to lift me up and he's not intimidated by my strength. Incredible things can happen when we all work together."

So what can you do to support #MentorHer? Here are three common workplace issues and how Sandberg wants you to combat them.

Discussing Team Promotions

Studies suggest women are less likely to have a sponsor or mentor who advocates on their behalf. "Put women's names forward for stretch assignments and promotions and introduce them to the influential people in your network—these personal connections can propel careers," she urges.

Giving Feedback

Women are more likely to receive advice based on their personal style, rather than their skills. "Give women specific input on the skills they need to build and tie it to business outcomes," she says. For example, you need to deepen your understanding of X to develop the skills required in a management role.

Organizing an After-hours Activity

Lean In found that women are often left out of social activities and business trips, which means they have fewer opportunities to build important relationships. "If you're uncomfortable going to dinner with female colleagues, meet everyone for breakfast—and encourage other men to do the same."

Has the way you manage your team changed after the #MeToo movement?

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