Considering the Downside of #MeToo

As the #MeToo Movement was gaining traction back in late 2017, we wrote about how refreshing that moment was and that it had the potential to change the workplace in a very positive way.

But we also offered a word of caution, a reminder that this same movement might bring about negative change in the form of men becoming less willing to interact with women, mentor them, and take them on conferences and other learning experiences because of potentially bad optics and, far worse in their minds, potential litigation.

And now, it appears that those fears have possibly become reality.

Indeed, in an eye-opening piece, attorney Amelia Holstrom, an employment-law specialist with the firm Skoler Abbott, reveals that evidence is emerging that #MeToo may be prompting more men to err on what they would consider the side of caution.

Holstrom writes that a survey conducted by LeanIn.org — an organization dedicated to helping women come together and achieve their goals — and titled “Working Relationships in the #MeToo Era,” suggested that 60% of male managers reported they were not comfortable participating in common work activities — mentoring, working alone, or socializing — with women.

That’s compared to 32% in a survey conducted a year earlier. Further, the recent survey also noted that senior-level men were 12 times “more likely to hesitate to have one-on-one meetings” with junior female employees, nine times “more likely to hesitate to travel [with junior female employees] for work,” and six times “more likely to hesitate to have work dinners” with junior female employees. According to the survey results, 36% of men said they avoided mentoring or socializing with women because they were concerned about how it might look. 

These are very disconcerting numbers, to be sure.

Holstrom went on to write about how this type of behavior can lead to litigation of a different kind — discrimination suits because women are being denied some of the same opportunities to advance and succeed as men — and this is a very important point.

But beyond the litigation factor, this hesitancy among men to travel with women or have dinner with them or avoid mentoring is simply not good for the business in question. And not good for society, and individual regions like this one.

That’s because the world is changing, and so is the world of work. What this region, and every region, needs is strong, effective leaders. And while it’s very possible that a woman can become a good, solid leader without interacting with men or being mentored by them, we would offer that it seems less likely that they could do so.

Workplaces are better, more productive spaces when individuals don’t have to think twice about the gender of the person they may be supervising or mentoring or thinking about taking to a professional-development conference in a city halfway across the country.

That’s a perfect world, and this is far from a perfect world. But with #MeToo, there was hope that we might be moving closer to a perfect world. Perhaps, but these survey results are unsettling.

We can only hope that, with time, these trends will reverse themselves and women can be not only free of sexual harassment, but in a position to access all the same opportunities as men.


More Massachusetts Employers Offering Health Insurance


More Massachusetts companies of all sizes are offering health insurance to their workers, but fewer employees are enrolling as costs accelerate, according to a new state study released this morning.

The report from the Center for Health Information and Analysis (CHIA) finds that the percentage of Bay State employers who provide health insurance increased from 65% in 2016 to 71% in 2018. Only 57% of employers nationally provide health coverage.

At the same time, the percentage of eligible employees who accepted employer health insurance declined from 74% to 67% during the same period.

Part of the explanation could be the relentless increase in the cost of health insurance faced by both companies and their workers. The CHIA report says average health-insurance premiums rose 12% for single policies from 2016 to 2018 and 13% for family plans. Employer contributions remained steady at 74%, but the average annual deductible soared 42%.

CHIA is the primary center for the collection and analysis of information about the Massachusetts healthcare market. The agency’s biennial Massachusetts Employer Survey tracks and monitors employer health-insurance offerings, employee take-up rates, health-insurance premiums, employer contribution amounts, plan characteristics, and employer decision making.

The most eye-opening conclusion of the study is that even small companies remain committed to offering health-insurance benefits. Although employers with fewer than 50 employees are no longer required by law to offer health insurance, 65% of these employers do. Seventy percent of small firms (3 to 199 employees) offered insurance, versus 99% of large firms (200 or more employees).

Other key findings of the CHIA survey include:

• The 2018 average total monthly premium was $617 for single coverage and $1,687 for family coverage;

• The average employee contribution to health insurance in 2018 was 26% for single coverage and 30% for family coverage, unchanged from 2016. Employers continue to cover an average of 74% of monthly premium costs;

• The average annual deductible for single coverage in 2018 was $1,508, slightly lower than the national average of $1,573, but more than the $1,065 average for 2016;

• Massachusetts employees overall faced lower out-of-pocket limits than their national counterparts. The average out-of-pocket limit for single coverage in Massachusetts was $3,461 compared to $3,872 nationally;

• Almost three quarters (70%) of Massachusetts employees were offered a high-deductible health plan (HDHP) in 2018. Thirty-nine percent were offered an HDHP with a savings option;

• The most common reason given by employers (48%) for not offering health insurance was that they were not required to do so because of their firms’ small size. Thirty-eight percent cited the cost as being too high. The most common reason employers said they offer health insurance was to retain employees (66%) and recruit new employees (63%); and

• Large companies were more likely than small ones to reduce their contributions toward employee premiums as a way to contain costs.

Katie Holahan is vice president of Government Affairs at Associated Industries of Massachusetts.