Advice for Professional Women Who Want to Get Ahead in the #MeToo Era

By Maura Schreier-Fleming

The era of the #MeToo movement has now produced a response from men, and it’s not the one that most women expected or wanted. Some men are responding with what’s called the “Pence Effect,” named after Vice President Mike Pence, who has said he avoids dining alone with any woman other than his wife.

Women can’t control who adopts the Pence Effect. However, they can control further unexpected consequences of #MeToo while working with men and trying to get ahead in business.

Always dress professionally

One way to avoid any unexpected consequences at work is to pay careful attention to how you dress in the workplace. I’m not advocating blaming the victim, but what I am suggesting is being realistic about what can result from certain actions. Some kinds of clothing can draw attention to women for the wrong reasons. As a professional woman, you don’t want that kind of attention.

In the era of #MeToo you might get another response besides attention: you might experience avoidance from male colleagues. And avoidance is not just about dining—it can also be about work. There are men who won’t want to work with you and who will simply avoid you because they don’t want to appear to be in any situation which could be misunderstood, or that could potentially result in accusations of inappropriate behavior. Some men worry that even telling a female colleague that she looks nice could get them accused of sexual harassment.

Be first to suggest where to meet

Women can set the tone of meetings by making better choices on where to meet and should suggest places that are more public and visible to others, such as glass-walled conference rooms. When visibility isn’t an option, keep the doors open. Including more people in the meeting is another option, although you should be aware of not wasting other people’s time.

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Be careful with after-work activities

Have you ever noticed that the people who get promoted are often the “friends” of the people in power? Those promoted often socialize with management by going out to lunch, golfing together, or socializing after work.

I’m not suggesting that you exclude yourself when the guys go out after work to a bar. You have to recognize that after-work activities are very logical places for people to get to know each other better. These relationships are often the basis of who ends up working well together and who gets promoted. Just don’t be the one suggesting that you go to a bar and don’t go with just one other person.

Watch how personal you get

Workplace relationships don’t suddenly happen; they stem from having common interests and from getting to know one another. How does this happen? Through conversations in which people share interests and talk about their families and other details of their personal lives.

However, there is a …read more

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