The whole Guardian headline:

Men now avoid women at work – another sign we're being punished for #MeToo
[Subhead] A new study has found US men appear to be following Mike Pence’s lead. Maybe they’re angry that #MeToo ever happened
t looks like Mike Pence is quite the trendsetter. The US vice-president famously refuses to have dinner alone with any woman who isn’t his wife – and now working men across corporate America appear to be following his lead.

A new study, due to be published in the journal Organizational Dynamics, has found that, following the #MeToo movement, men are significantly more reluctant to interact with their female colleagues. A few highlights from the research include:

  • 27% of men avoid one-on-one meetings with female co-workers. Yep, that’s right, almost a third of men are terrified to be alone in a room with a woman.
  • 21% of men said they would be reluctant to hire women for a job that would require close interaction (such as business travel).
  • 19% of men would be reluctant to hire an attractive woman.


The data above was collected in early 2019 from workers across a wide range of industries. Researchers had asked the same questions (albeit to different people and with more of a focus on future expectations) in early 2018, just as #MeToo was in full swing, and depressingly, things appear to have got worse. In 2018, for example, 15% of men said they would be more reluctant to hire women for jobs that require close interpersonal interactions with women, compared to 21% in 2019.
The author, Arwa Mahdawi, seems pretty ticked off at men for this:
There’s been a lot of talk about “grey areas” in #MeToo. All this harassment business is very difficult for men, we’re told, because nobody even knows what sexual harassment is any more! Men are afraid to even shake a woman’s hand in case she thinks it’s harassment! Easier to just avoid contact altogether!
Ms Mahdawi is having none of it!
What’s really interesting about this study, however, is that it thoroughly debunks the argument that men are confused about what constitutes unacceptable behavior. The very first thing researchers did was look at 19 behaviours (emailing sexual jokes to a subordinate, for example) and get people to classify it as harassment or not. Surprise, surprise, both genders basically agreed on what harassment entails.

“Most men know what sexual harassment is, and most women know what it is,” Leanne Atwater, a professor at the University of Houston and one of the study’s authors, told the Harvard Business Review. “The idea that men don’t know their behavior is bad and that women are making a mountain out of a molehill is largely untrue. If anything, women are more lenient in defining harassment.”

So there you go: most men are perfectly aware of the difference between a friendly hug and a creepy hug. They are perfectly aware of what constitutes harassment and what doesn’t. Which makes you wonder why so many men are afraid to interact with women at work?

The answer to that question, perhaps, is that a lot of men aren’t so much afraid of being accused of anything as they are they are angry that #MeToo ever happened. They’re angry that they’ve been made to think about their behavior, made to interrogate power dynamics they always took for granted, and they are punishing women for it by refusing to interact with them.
The study reveals a significant change, it appears, and the damage to women pursuing careers seems is also significant.

My reaction is different than the author's, however, because I assume the men are making rational decisions here. That is, there's a reason, or reasons, for the change.

And I don't think it just the guys being spiteful, as Arwa seems to. She also says women discriminate against women, particularly against attractive women, but that the data isn't published yet. That's old news, though. Threading the needle on just how good an ambitious but attractive woman can look—especially around a female boss—is a minefield. (Yep, mixed metaphors are my raison d'être.)

I assume that the men here are looking to avoid stress when all else is equal. I don't know if it goes much deeper than that.