Myth: 60% of men aren’t mentoring women because of #MeToo concerns

This falsehood appeared across headlines in numerous major media in 2019. It’s a misreading of a sentence in a news release. And the sentence in the news release is also inaccurate, though in a different way.

In the poll at issue, by LeanIn.org and Survey Monkey, 9% of men said they have avoided “mentoring a woman from work on an ongoing basis” due to concerns about how it would look. (The survey did not ask men about mentoring women, nor did it ask women about mentoring men or women.)

The 60% figure comes from this line about male managers: “60% in the U.S.  say they are uncomfortable engaging in common workplace interactions with women.” This is not accurate. It includes all the men who said they are uncomfortable “socializing with a woman from work alone outside of work (e.g., in a restaurant, hotel).” In the published survey findings, 40% of men said they are uncomfortable with this. And according to the summary provided, 48% of male managers said they are uncomfortable with this. Some people believe managers should not be socializing with a report in hotels and restaurants, and that the idea of doing this should make people uncomfortable. (Again, the survey does not show how many men are uncomfortable doing this with men, or how many women are uncomfortable doing so with women or men.)

All these figures are still large and highlight important concerns. We need to know the characteristics of men who are avoiding mentoring, and other important interactions, with women so that we can address this and work to fix these problems. Where are they getting their information from? What messaging can help alleviate their worries so this does not happen? The answers to these questions and more will help a great deal.