Leonardo DiCaprio holds a phone up to a room of men in The Wolf of Wall Street.

Wall Street Is Going Full Mike Pence in Response to #MeToo, Shunning Women

Never go full Mike Pence.

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According to a new report from Bloomberg, male senior executives working on Wall Street are super scared of women in the #MeToo era. So scared that they’ve decided their only option is to avoid being alone with them or even, it seems, around them at all.

The outlet spoke to more than 30 executives and described the general atmosphere as “spooked.” One described his post-#MeToo existence as like “walking on eggshells.” Another called the hiring of women an “unknown risk.” So they’ve stopped hiring women, and stopped having one-on-one meetings with them, aka the Mike Pence Defence. One man in his late 40s who works in private equity added a hefty dash of ageism to his sexist policies, refusing to have one-on-one meetings with women under 35.

What these men seem to be worried about are false accusations. Because once again, we have a group of men who hear women speaking out about their experiences with abuse in previously unseen numbers, and rather than marvel at the strength they’ve found via their newfound solidarity and respect that these were things that always happened but that we didn’t feel comfortable or safe talking about, they assume that since they weren’t hearing about this before, the women must be lying or exaggerating now. And that’s how they turn women’s pain into a perceived male witch hunt. It’s easier for them to believe that one woman might lie than that countless women are harassed, abused, and systemically discriminated against.

Is anyone else tired of having the same conversation over and over again? Explaining how shunning women is the exact wrong response to this movement of creating transparency regarding how frequently and often casually we are harassed, assaulted, or otherwise disparaged or demeaned?

I’m certainly tired of writing this same article over and over about some newly interviewed community of powerful men who still react with Mike Pence logic, thinking that the only option is to ignore women, not acknowledging or not caring how detrimental this choice is to women’s careers.

Wall Street, politics, pretty much the entire world–these are not pure meritocracies. People rely on personal connections and mentorships. When men deny women the opportunity to interact via private conversations, business lunches, social settings, or any other format, it’s immensely detrimental to their careers.

As the women interviewed by Bloomberg note, Wall Street (as with so many other fields) is a heavily male-dominated institution. Women have been slowly cracking through to top positions (making up 15% or senior executive positions and 26% of senior managers) but, as Lisa Kaufman, chief executive officer of LaSalle Securities puts it, “There aren’t enough women in senior positions to bring along the next generation all by themselves. Advancement typically requires that someone at a senior level knows your work, gives you opportunities and is willing to champion you within the firm. It’s hard for a relationship like that to develop if the senior person is unwilling to spend one-on-one time with a more junior person.”

At least a couple of men interviewed had the right answer. One investment adviser who manages about 100 employees said he was “briefly reconsidered having one-on-one meetings with junior women. He thought about leaving his office door open, or inviting a third person into the room.” Finally, Bloomberg writes, “he landed on the solution: ‘Just try not to be an asshole.'”

Another chief executive agreed. “It’s really not that hard.”

And for those men who still think it is that hard, and who still insist on twisting these stories women are telling into somehow being about them and some unrealistic, manufactured danger to them, one employment attorney has an important note that can hopefully break through to them.

“If men avoid working or traveling with women alone, or stop mentoring women for fear of being accused of sexual harassment,” he said, “those men are going to back out of a sexual harassment complaint and right into a sex discrimination complaint.”

Maybe if these men can’t learn to empathize with and respect women, they’ll at least look out for themselves and not engage in illegal discrimination. We can hope.

(via Bloomberg, image: Wolf of Wall Street, Paramount)

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Vivian Kane
Vivian Kane (she/her) is the Senior News Editor at The Mary Sue, where she's been writing about politics and entertainment (and all the ways in which the two overlap) since the dark days of late 2016. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri, where she gets to put her MFA to use covering the local theatre scene. She is the co-owner of The Pitch, Kansas City’s alt news and culture magazine, alongside her husband, Brock Wilbur, with whom she also shares many cats.