Closing The Gap

Sheryl Sandberg has a message for men who've adopted the 'Pence rule'

Sheryl Sandberg
Getty Images

Thanks to the #MeToo and Time's Up movements, an increasing number of workplace harassers are being identified. But in the midst of these public conversations around how to create a safer and more equal work environment, some men have concluded that the best way to inoculate themselves against criticism is to avoid interacting with women alone.

It's a practice commonly referred to as the Mike Pence rule, named for the vice president's decision to never have dinner alone with a woman who isn't his wife. In Facebook post published earlier today, COO Sheryl Sandberg warns how harmful this reaction can be to women.

"If men think that the way to address workplace sexual harassment is to avoid one-on-one time with female colleagues – including meetings, coffee breaks and all the interactions that help us work together effectively – it will be a huge setback for women," she writes.

Sheryl Sandberg
Getty Images

Instead, Sandberg says more men should mentor women and advocate for their advancement.

"Long before the #MeToo movement, a lack of mentorship from senior leaders was already a significant barrier for women in the workplace," she writes.

A recent survey by LeanIn and SurveyMonkey shows that almost 50 percent of male managers in the United States are uncomfortable with engaging in basic workplace activities with women. This means, women are often excluded from after work dinners, company luncheons and office meetings.

In response, Sandberg is launching a campaign called, #MentorHer, with With this campaign, men will be provided with tips on how to be an effective mentor to a female colleague, as well as insight into why mentors are crucial to one's career success.

Women are less likely than men to be mentored, and women of color get the least support of all.
Sheryl Sandberg
COO, Facebook

"People with mentors are more likely to get promotions – yet women are less likely than men to be mentored, and women of color get the least support of all," she writes. "If we're going to change the power imbalance that enables so much sexual harassment in the first place, we need to ensure women get more mentorship and sponsorship, not less."

In a Facebook post last year, Sandberg addressed the persistent lack of female leadership in both the private and public sectors.

"Only 13 countries and six percent of Fortune 500 companies are run by women," she wrote. "Just 13 percent of police officers are women, and only a few hundred are police chiefs. And less than 20 percent of the U.S. Congress is female."

For men who remain hesitant about spending time with women professionally, Sandberg suggests an alternative policy.

"Don't want to have dinner alone with a female colleague? Fine. But make access equal: No dinners alone with anyone," she writes. "Whatever you choose, treat women and men equally."

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