Senior executives on Wall Street are icing out younger female colleagues to protect themselves against potential false, career-ending sexual harassment claims. Bloomberg interviewed nearly three dozen senior executives who work for hedge funds, law firms, banks, private equity firms, and investment-management firms about how their interactions with younger female staff have changed a year after the #MeToo movement brought to light workplace sexual harassment in Hollywood, media, and other industries.
According to a new Bloomberg report, men on Wall Street have adopted defensive strategies intended to head off potential career-ending allegations including: avoid one-on-one meetings with female employees or meetings in rooms without windows; no more dinners with female colleagues; avoid work travel with female colleagues; avoid sitting beside female colleagues on flights; book hotel rooms on different floors; keep distance from female workers in elevators; and eliminate social functions like after parties. Even hiring women now carries fear and risk.
Employment attorney Stephen Zweig warns men against taking such precautions, noting, “If men avoid working or traveling with women alone, or stop mentoring women for fear of being accused of sexual harassment, those men are going to back out of a sexual harassment complaint and right into a sex discrimination complaint.”
The Wall Street report is only one example of widespread sentiment across industries. The #MeToo backlash against women in the workplace has created an anxious work environment and reduced opportunities for young women in particular to move ahead in their careers by limiting professional development and networking opportunities. It doesn’t help the situation when individual Millennials fail to handle constructive feedback and criticism in a professional manner, which has been discussed at length over the years as poorly reflecting on the generation as a whole and paints all Millennial women as overly sensitive and fragile.