On October 15, 2017, Alyssa Milano wrote a blog post that would have worldwide implications. She wrote about Harvey Weinstein’s predatory behavior against women and encouraged spreading #MeToo to bring attention to the issue of sexual harassment. Since then, many men have faced the consequences of their actions against women.
An unfortunate side effect of the #MeToo Movement is that male executives are increasingly avoiding one-on-one interactions with women. That may be business meetings, mentoring, coaching, and other business-related type meetings. The Lean In organization recently partnered with Survey Monkey concerning the reaction of male executives to the #MeToo Movement and here are some of the results:
More than 5,000 adults were polled in the U.S. It found
- Men in senior leadership roles are 12 times more likely to be hesitant to meet with a woman than a man;
- Nine times more likely to not want to travel on a business trip with a female colleague
- Six times more likely to avoid work dinners with a woman.
The significance of this is the ever-growing disparity of male executives sponsoring and supporting women to take on more leadership roles in organizations compared to men.
As you can imagine, there are numerous articles and blog posts about what men and women should and shouldn’t do when in the company of each other. Some come from a very hateful perspective and ring with the air of, “Kill all men!” Some give you the “Duh!” moment, like not touching a woman on her leg, knee, waist, and other areas that are usually only touched by a significant other. Some male executives admitted that they are afraid that they’ll say something sexist or offensive. Again, “Duh!”. Some HR Departments are instructing male executives to never be alone with women they work or do business with…ever.
In my time on this earth, I’ve seen many events, some that encased the entire globe and some that were two people interacting. Here’s an important lesson I’ve learned; People are like pendulums in a clock. They go all the way to one side and then go all the way to the other. For male executives to never, ever meet one-on-one with women is counterproductive, just like killing all men would be. One would eventually cause the demise of the human race, the other will inhibit the growth of women into senior leadership positions.
The Foundation of Human Interactions
I want to get to the very foundation of human interactions because companies and governments can set rules and laws to enforce desired behaviors…and we see how well that works. The most important piece of the interaction is intention. When a male executive is scheduled to meet with a female, what is his intention? By this, I mean more than the outcome of the business part of the meeting. When he sees that he’s meeting with a woman, does he think to himself, “Wow! She a real looker! I’d like to get close to her!”, then the intention’s already set. He can consciously do things to hide those feelings, but his unconscious behaviors will tell the real intent.
Neuroscientist V.S. Ramachandran says that through the advent of machines, like the fMRI, we know that we ‘feel a person before we intellectualize them’. In about 1/100th of a second and before we ever say a word, the person(s) we’re meeting with will have subconsciously already decided if they like us, trust us, etc. He says, “there is an underlying element that connects us all.” Of course, that “underlying element” also has science behind it, Predictor Neurons, which I’ll get into next.
Human lie detector training is given to many in the military and government agencies that work with espionage. The training includes establishing a baseline of behavior and then looking for nuances of deviation from that baseline when specific topics are addressed or certain questions asked. As an example, a woman meets with a man with whom she’s interacted. As they meet, she suddenly notices a slight change in his breathing, his tone of voice changes, he starts making movements with his eyes or hands that are uncharacteristic. She may not consciously identify such changes; she just knows something is different. Some call this intuition. It’s really a part of our nervous system call Predictor Neurons. At the unconscious level, these are firing and sending signals to the brain for interpretation. These neurons have been programmed for years to associate specific behaviors with specific movements, words, voice inflection, etc. The brain then associates emotions, such as fear, to what is happening. Sometimes, an interesting phenomenon takes place at this moment; A choice to suppress the feelings, to make excuses or reasons for the feelings, to say to oneself, “I must be misinterpreting his intentions. He would never be like that”, “I really need this promotion, so I’ll ignore this”, etc. Whether you’re a man or a woman, I guarantee that your Predictor Neurons are much more accurate than your conscious-level thinking.
What’s the Answer for Male Executives?
When a male executive has the right intention, then he has little, if anything, to be concerned about when meeting with women. He won’t have to worry about saying or doing anything sexist or offensive because his intention is only good toward women.
The Predictor Neurons of the women he meets with won’t pick up any sexual, or negative, intention. His body language and voice inflection will be comfortable and professional. There will be an ease of interaction. Of course, it just makes sense to meet with curtains open, the door left open, if possible, and other indications that there’s no reason to be hidden.
The only reasons for male executives to avoid meeting with women in business is if they have a belief system that women are inferior, or if they have impure motives. In those cases, they must absolutely avoid one-on-one interactions, because those beliefs and feelings will come through. And, that is another whole issue…