When I was in the investment industry in the 1990s, my friend Jeannette and I observed that after meetings and conferences, the top executives – mostly men but a few women — often played a round of golf. We knew a lot of bonding took place on the greens, and we felt disadvantaged in our careers because we weren’t golfers. So, one summer, we decided to buy a set of clubs and take lessons from a golf pro. I soon discovered that I didn’t like hitting balls much, and worse, I was terrible at it. My clubs stayed in the trunk of my car and never saw the light of day. Years later, I sold them on Craigslist.
It’s a fact of the workplace that major decisions are made over meals, martinis, and the golf course. It’s also a fact that men hold, and will always hold, positions of power. So, for women to achieve success in their careers, they need to interact with men – including their bosses and men who could mentor them in and out of the workplace.
That’s why it worries me that the more extreme voices of the #MeToo movement may ultimately drive men – especially those holding prominent positions – to avoid their female colleagues altogether. And who could blame them? Given the current cultural climate where men are presumed guilty of sexual misconduct or discrimination simply because they’ve been accused will drive them to all-male safe places – the boys club of old. Women will give back the gains they’ve made by previous generations of hardworking, talented women who broke the “glass ceiling” to achieve the highest levels of their profession.
We’re already there. Not long ago, Vice President Mike Pence in a media interview said he would never dine alone with a woman. If all men followed his lead, they would never hire women to be their lawyers, doctors, financial advisors, or their right-hand person in a company. If men are afraid to be alone with their female colleagues, it will ultimately be women who will pay the price.
Rowena Itchon is senior vice president of the Pacific Research Institute.