No, men, you shouldn’t avoid meeting one-on-one with women

Posted on Monday, September 24, 2018 by Jessica Salerno

In a recent Gallup article, “Mayo's Enduring Values Meet the New Workplace” Cathy Fraser, chief human resources officer of the Mayo Clinic spoke with Gallup Managing Director Larry Emond. Emond and Fraser cover what it means to be a professional in today’s business environment. But one question Emond posed to Fraser specifically sparked my interest:

Emond: There's some discussion among executives about men avoiding one-on-one meetings with women, and many are concerned women will miss mentoring opportunities as a result. Is that a topic of discussion in your world?

Fraser: While this is a concern for some, we are openly talking about the expectation of helping each other, regardless of gender or any other type of difference. One of our core values is teamwork. That's how we work; we work in teams, we work through relationships and in no way would discourage teamwork. It's an expectation of your job that you'll mentor people one-on-one, but we do make sure that there's awareness about how both parties feel. We have tools and mechanisms to be able to create an easy way to have those conversations.

Fraser’s answer is a welcome breath of fresh air in its diplomatic and thoughtful approach. But although she doesn’t explicitly say this, I will: men, do not stop meeting with women one-on-one because you are afraid. It’s not a bad thing that #MeToo is making men think about the way they interact with other people and how those actions might be perceived, especially to women. But the reaction to a movement that empowers women to speak up about some of the most traumatic experiences in their lives should not be to avoid sitting down with them in a professional context.

Because the result of men avoiding women – in a world where there are more CEOs are named John than there are female CEOs – is that women will miss out on mentoring opportunities that could allow them to grow and lead and, in turn, empower other women and diverse professionals to do the same.

The accounting profession is not immune to these conversations. Because in a time when we’re focused on making accounting a career of the future, consciously choosing to ignore half of the accountants in the profession will solidly place accounting in the past.

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