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raceAhead: The #MeToo Backlash?

December 4, 2018, 5:00 PM UTC

Today, I’m joining forces with my sisters at The Broadsheet and Term Sheet, two Fortune newsletters you should consider subscribing to if you don’t already.

The question we’re asking: What is up with men?

The trigger was this Bloomberg article showing that Wall Street men are adopting new rules and draconian tactics to avoid being in contact with women, lest they are caught up in some #MeToo hysteria:

No more dinners with female colleagues. Don’t sit next to them on flights. Book hotel rooms on different floors. Avoid one-on-one meetings. In fact, as a wealth adviser put it, just hiring a woman these days is “an unknown risk.” What if she took something he said the wrong way?

Call it the Pence Effect, because they are.

The Vice President, who has said he never eats a meal alone with a woman who isn’t his wife, may be trying to avoid the appearance of impropriety, but in fact, he’s just removing opportunities for meaningful face time with the boss. “In finance, the overarching impact can be, in essence, gender segregation,” says Bloomberg.

Consider this recent survey showing that men and women tend to define sexual harassment quite differently, and this Lean In survey from February, which found that male managers now report being three times as likely to say they are uncomfortable mentoring women and twice as uncomfortable working alone with a woman and you’ve got a recipe for… the justification for the consolidation of male power?

Or is it something else?

Broadsheet editor Kristen Bellstrom spoke for so many when she wrote today, “I find it difficult to believe that men who are so skittish around and suspicious of women were ever doing all that much to advance the careers of their female colleagues. Rather, I tend to think that true allies behave more along the lines of one unnamed investment adviser who told Bloomberg that he considered adopting some of these behaviors, only to at last land on a different solution: ‘Just try not to be an asshole.’”

A solid start, I’ll admit.

And Term Sheet’s Polina Marinova is equally over it. “Not only is it absurd, it is also impractical to ice out an entire gender out of fear of being accused of sexual harassment. It’s a reaction—not a solution.”

She’s absolutely right.

So, we’re all asking our readers: Is this happening to you? Or is it something you’re seeing, doing, feeling, or worried about? Talk to us. We’re all about solutions.

For raceAheaders – how does this affect women of color? Are men of color, who often already report being extra careful to not be perceived as harassers, paying an additional price? And if you’re a skittish male manager, what workplace changes (apart from banishing women) would help you feel better prepared to do your job?

Feel free to ping me as you usually do, or email me at, and we’ll all share notes for future reporting. If the unintended consequence of equity in the workplace turns into just another barrier for women, we’re going to need a whole other hashtag.

On Point

Four podcasts for the diversity-and-inclusion expert soulKimberley Doyle, a consultant and Corporate Engagement Director and Consultant at Catalyst, has put together a list of four essential podcasts for those in the inclusion field, and she went out of her way to identify specific episodes to make sure that anyone pressed for time could get the biggest bang for their attention buck. She finds content that addresses whiteness (NPR’s Code Switch) and leading in the #MeToo era (HBR-affiliated Women at Work). I was unfamiliar with The Will To Change, a series of one-on-one interviews, including her favorite “Engaging Men as Allies for Gender Equality With Ray Arata,” the founder of the Better Man Conference. Could come in handy.Catalyst

About that Confederate plaque in the Texas capitol…
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has called for a meeting to discuss the face of a controversial plaque dedicated to the Children of the Confederacy Creed, which is dedicated to a very specific goal: to "teach the truths of history ... one of the most important of which is, that the war between the states was not a rebellion nor was its underlying cause to sustain slavery."  This is not a new debate; Abbott has reported its removal in the past, but he thinks the decision should be left to lawmakers. One lawmaker from Dallas called the plaque “incorrect and offensive.” History is hard work.
Dallas News

How consumer-facing genetics testing falls short for people of color
Any controversy of how databases of genetic information may or may not be used is the question of how useful home test kits are for people of color. For one the estimates of ethnicity are threadbare for anyone whose ancestor didn’t come from Europe, so for people with Asian, African and Latinx roots, results may be spotty at best. But as more non-Europeans buy genetic tests every year, gene companies are rushing to add a wider array of DNA to their reference panels. Disruption, y’all. 
USA Today

Two “good guys with guns” get shot. Why?
The Washington Post editorial board joins a growing chorus of voices who are flagging the recent cases of Jemel Roberson and Emantic Fitzgerald Bradford Jr, who were legally armed and shot by police during their attempts to prevent a crime in progress. Both were black. Both incidents highlight the ongoing issues with racial disparities in policing and the stony silence of gun rights advocates who go missing when the “good guy” with a gun is black. In a separate piece in Rolling Stone, Jamil Smith lays it bare. “The lack of ability to imagine black people as heroes may be one explanation for these shootings,” he says. “A childhood of seeing men of color as cannon fodder for Clint Eastwood, John Wayne and other assorted Good White Guys With Guns has an effect on folks.”
Washington Post


The Woke Leader

The killings of black men by whites is more likely to be ruled “justifiable”
A Marshall Project analysis of 400,000 homicides committed between 1980 and 2014 finds that when a white person kills a black man, they are less likely to face charges. In almost 17% of cases involving a white civilian killing a black man, the deaths were ruled “justified.” Just 2% of homicide cases are ruled justifiable overall. The analysis also examines the ingrained prejudices that define self-defense. “Self-defense decisions by regular people, much like those involving the police, are made quickly and with imperfect information,” explains the New York Times. “It contributes to the decision to pull the trigger because of the fear associated with the stereotype,” said one defense lawyer.
New York Times

The free blacks of the Dominican Republic
In 1824, some 300 African Americans chartered a boat from Philadelphia and traveled to the town of Samana in the Dominican Republic to start new lives. At the time, they were answering the call of one of the leaders of the Haitian Revolution; today, their descendants, led by a group of elders ranging in age from 80 to 104, are working to preserve their history and culture. For that, they’ve turned to a higher power, the weekly church service held at African Methodist Episcopal (A.M.E.) church, one of two houses of worship established by the black asylum seekers. “The church is where I go to praise God and preserve my family’s story,” says Martha Leticia Wilmore, 90, the great- grand-daughter of one of the settlers. (Hat-tip @Katrina_HRM)
New York Times

A fellowship for formerly incarcerated artists
This is the second year of Right of Return USA Fellowship, a project funded by the Open Philanthropy Project, an organization established by Cari Tuna and Facebook and Asana co-founder Dustin Moskowitz. Six formerly incarcerated artists working in any medium will be awarded $20,000 each in support of a project that aims to reform the criminal justice system. Fellows will also be invited to a retreat in spring of 2019.  Deadline for applications is December 16, 2018 at 11:59 EST. Co-chairs of the fellowship are Jesse Krimes and Russell Craig, two extraordinary artists who know what they’re talking about.  Please read and amplify.
Right of Return


Seriously what’s the appropriate reason for a married person to go out for a meal alone with a member of the other sex (outside of family). Planning your spouse’s surprise party or funeral and that is it.
Erick Erickson, conservative blogger