Apparently, men in the workplace are threatened. I get some of it- the #timesup and #MeToo movements have brought to light decades of inappropriate behavior and men have now paid a price for it. Perhaps, if you are like me, and someone who grew up and worked in the era of their bad behavior was ‘just the way it was’, you may be saying “It is about time. They deserve it.” which is also true, and yet a bit narrow focused. I think this is a complex issue that bears all of us examining it.

There are instances of clear assault that needs to be dealt with, like in the case of Bill Cosby and others like him, but what has also come under scrutiny that is elevating the experience of threat is what was deemed ‘just the way it was’ or ‘normal’ behavior may land them without a job, the target of a lawsuit, etc. I am NOT saying it is ok for the behavior to continue. I am thrilled it is being called out, and I think we need to wake men up to what works and can no longer be ‘just the way it is’. I think, often, they have been mentored and model other men’s behavior and don’t actually realize it is offensive or off-putting. We need to let them know, before we go to suing and getting them fired, what doesn’t work. I think we need to call it all out, and do it in a way that wakes them up. If it persists, then take the next action.

See, the problem is they are so worried, so threatened that according to a survey, released by LeanIn.org and SurveyMonkey, “60% of male managers say they’re uncomfortable mentoring, working one-on-one or socializing with a woman” which is a 33% increase from last year according to this article in CNBC.

That is a problem. No one will advance in their career without meeting with those in power. Women, and men, need mentors and need sponsors who help them grow in their career. The reaction of threat is normal- this is fight or flight reaction- and they are in the flight mode.

The solution, I believe, is not that simple. Men need to stop avoiding women and set up situations that allow them to mentor and engage with women publicly or in groups, perhaps. Women need to encourage their male colleagues to sponsor and mentor them. Women and men need to call out behavior that doesn’t work in a way that has men wake up and not react, but respond with change in behavior. And other men, allies, need to speak up and take a stand for women to get what they need to elevate their careers.

Together, we can work on this, and truly work toward ending the gender gap. Let’s have the badass women take the leadership positions and enhance their careers and the path for all who follow.