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New Study Shows the Pence Effect Is Real:

Men are avoiding sexual harassment by opting for sexual discrimination instead.

When it comes to sexual harassment, Vice President Mike Pence takes a very different tack from our Commander in Chief.


Pence has said that he won't have dinner alone with a woman who's not his wife, and he also requests his wife's presence at any events where alcohol is present.

While many are fans of this very traditional sense of propriety, this antiquated approach rests on several problematic assumptions (that men are incapable of respecting women, chief among them) and causes several more issues:

  • How might a woman on Pence's staff be impacted if he meets one-on-one with all of his male direct reports, but refuses to do so with her?
  • When the majority of corporate leaders are men, how can women receive proper mentorship if men decide they can't be alone with women?
  • What happens if bosses invite their male staff members to happy hours and leave women out?

In summary: when men hold the power, finding excuses to create men-only spaces puts women at an inherent disadvantage.

In the wake of the #MeToo Movement, several prominent men on Wall Street said they were taking a leaf out of Mike Pence's book and avoiding time alone with women for fear that they'd be accused of sexual harassment (effectively punishing women for speaking up, and demonstrating that they were more concerned with being accused of sexual harassment than actually doing anything to stop sexual harassment).

Now, a recent study from the University of Houston has shown that the Pence Effect goes well beyond Wall Street. Men in a number of different industries are avoiding women at work, effectively swapping sexual harassment for sexual discrimination.

Study Results

The University of Houston study found that in the wake of the #MeToo movement, men are much more hesitant to interact with their female colleagues.

In early 2018, the researchers conducted a survey about sexual harassment in the workplace to ascertain men and women's attitudes about what constitutes sexual harassment, and the impact they thought the #MeToo movement would have on the incidence of harassment and behavior at work.

They then surveyed another group of people in 2019 to see how accurate the 2018 predictions had been, and the backlash was even greater than expected:

  • 19% of men said they were reluctant to hire attractive women
  • 21% of men said they were reluctant to hire women for jobs involving close interpersonal interactions with men (jobs involving travel, say)
  • 27% of men said they avoided one-on-one meetings with female colleagues
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Are women being unfairly punished for #MeToo? What do you think we should do about it? Tell us what you think in the comments.


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