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Sex & The Office: Women, Men & the Sex Partition That’s Dividing the Workplace

From the Show: HER
Summary: How can men and women network in the office when there's still confusion between the sexes?
Air Date: 10/2/17
Duration: 28:08
Host: Michelle King Robson and Pam Peeke, MD
Guest Bio: Kim Elsesser, PhD
Dr. Kim ElsesserKim Elsesser, PhD, is the author of Sex and the Office: Women, Men and the Sex Partition that’s Dividing the Workplace

She’s a lecturer at UCLA where she teaches classes on psychology and gender. Dr. Elsesser has a blog on Forbes.com and has published in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times and the Guardian and has discussed gender issues on television on Fox News America Live, and radio on NPR’s Talk of the Nation, BBC World News, and Jenny McCarthy’s Dirty, Sexy, Funny. She was one of CNN’s "Most Intriguing People of the Day" and has been cited in the New York TimesThe AtlanticSunday Times (London), Bloomberg Magazine, Salon.com, and Elle magazine among others.

Her research on gender and work was partly inspired by her experiences as a quantitative equity trader while employed at Morgan Stanley. She holds a PhD in Psychology from UCLA, two graduate degrees from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and an undergraduate degree from Vassar College.
Sex & The Office: Women, Men & the Sex Partition That’s Dividing the Workplace
Sexes in the workplace have become complicated.

Many men may choose not to mentor women because they don’t want to be accused of sexual harassment. They don’t want their conversation to be misinterpreted as romantic interest. This leads them to stick with other men instead of including women in the mentorship and networking events and helping women make career advancements.

Sexual harassment training in the workplace is great for reducing the company’s legal liability but hasn't been proven to reduce harassment. These programs should teach what isn’t harassment, like a male colleague asking a female colleague out for lunch. The waters have gotten so muddy that career connections and camaraderie aren’t happening between the sexes.

Assigned mentorships create less suspicion. With a designated mentor, there shouldn’t be any water cooler talk about the business relationship.

Fostering an environment for all employees to get to know one another can also bridge the sex-separation gap. Social events and office gathering spaces can help make connections.

Getting a Mentor

  • Be specific about why you are approaching someone of the opposite sex as a mentor. Mention skills that inspire you that you would like to refine. 
  • Announce your mentorship publicly. This reduces confusion and suspicion when you spend time with your mentor.
  • Seek a female mentor. There are many women in power.
  • Get as many different mentors as you can. It’s okay if people shy away. Keep asking others.
Preventing Confusions

  • Don’t refer to your colleague or office buddy as your office spouse. It throws a sexual connotation on your business relationship.
  • Take your partner to office social functions. This shows you are happily involved and aren’t looking to date people from work.
  • Pay attention to how you’re presenting yourself at work. Your wardrobe choices at the office should reflect how professional you are while suiting that work environment. It keeps your life simpler.
Listen as Dr. Kim Elsesser joins Dr. Pamela Peeke to advise on how to make career strides and avoiding confusion between the sexes.

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