Powerful men regularly avoid one-on-one meetings with women, to protect their families. Women’s progress suffers..

Powerful men regularly avoid one-on-one meetings with women, to protect their families. Women’s progress suffers. By Olga Khazan.

In 2002, Mike Pence told The Hill that he never eats alone with a woman other than his wife and that he won’t attend events featuring alcohol without her by his side, either. …

The Pences are evangelical Christians, and their faith animates both their policy views and how they express devotion to one another. …

But, especially in boozy, late-working Washington, the eating thing rankled. Sure, during the day, you can grab coffee instead of a sandwich. But no dinner? Doesn’t that cut an entire gender off from a very powerful person at roughly 8 p.m.? To career-obsessed Washingtonians, that’s practically happy hour — which, apparently, is off-limits too.

Pence is not the only powerful man in Washington who goes to great lengths to avoid the appearance of impropriety with the opposite sex. An anonymous survey of female Capitol Hill staffers conducted by National Journal in 2015 found that “several female aides reported that they have been barred from staffing their male bosses at evening events, driving alone with their congressman or senator, or even sitting down one-on-one in his office for fear that others would get the wrong impression.”

One told the reporter Sarah Mimms that in 12 years working for her previous boss, he “never took a closed door meeting with me. … This made sensitive and strategic discussions extremely difficult.”

Social-science research shows this practice extends beyond politics and into the business world, and it can hold women back from key advancement opportunities. …

Hewlett’s surveys, interviews, and focus groups found that 64 percent of executive men are reluctant to have one-on-one meetings with junior women, and half of junior women avoid those meetings in turn. Perhaps as a result, 31 percent of women in her sample felt senior men weren’t willing to “spend their chips” on younger women in office political battles. What’s more, “30 percent of them noted that the sexual tension intrinsic to any one-on-one relationship with men made male sponsorship too difficult to be productive.”

Comments Glenn Reynolds:

So you drastically expand the definition of “sexual harassment,” and then promote an ethic that says that all accusations must be believed, and then you’re shocked that workplace men don’t want to hang out with women? How stupid are you?