At 84 years old, Gloria Steinem is still the witty, fiery feminist activist she's been throughout her adulthood. As she told the audience at Gloria: A Life, the off-Broadway play that tells how Gloria went from living out of a car with her family to becoming one of the country's first celebrated female journalists, age has only further emboldened her to do and say what she pleases. And what pleases her is helping historically oppressed groups achieve equality in society, including boosting women's careers.
During the "talking circle" that follows play performances, Gloria, herself, chatted with audience members in New York City on March 6. I was privileged to be there (seriously, you've got to see this play before it closes on March 31) and witness the following empowering exchange. One attendee brought up a particularly insidious example of working men's backlash to the #MeToo movement: their refusal to meet with women reports and colleagues alone out of fear of being accused of sexual impropriety. Without those one-on-one meetings, though, women's professional prospects could suffer. Men still hold many more positions of power in corporate America than women. As such, women need these powerful men to sponsor or at least mentor them. It's a popular path to getting promotions and exposure to other higher-ups who can benefit women's careers.
Now, how are women supposed to advance if men won't meet with them? Gloria has a brilliant solution: Women should insist that "men don't meet with other men alone either."
Even though false accusations of sexual assault are rare, those statistics aren't doing much to convince working men to keep opening their office doors to women. Working Mother's research found that 56 percent of men agree that sponsorship and mentoring relationships are at risk because of the perception that unacceptable behavior could be occurring. So Gloria's advice to demand that no one, regardless of gender, can swing a one-on-one meeting with a male boss makes perfect sense for equalizing access to opportunities. If only we all had Gloria's chutzpah to make such a request.
— Meredith Bodgas
This article originally appeared on Working Mother. Working Mother is mentor, role model and advocate for the country’s more than 17 million moms who are devoted to their families and committed to their careers. Through our website, magazine, research, radio and powerful events, Working Mother provides its readers with the community, solutions and strategies they need to thrive.