February 29, 2012 6:30 PM

The Careerist: Maybe It’s Not Just Dinner

Posted by Vivia Chen

It always boils down to sex.

Recently, I wrote about how men in power are reluctant to sponsor young women because of the sexual innuendos that might arise. In particular, I wrote about their squeamishness about having a business meal with a female subordinate outside of the office. I was incredulous that men could be so uptight.

Well, I got a slew of mail taking me to task. One in-house counsel writes:

The reason we (older male management lawyers) don’t want to have lunch or dinner with younger, lower-ranked females is because we been lectured to, sometimes yearly, about the evils of sexual harassment. And it has been made VERY clear to us that all it takes is an allegation to really start trouble. One little misunderstanding, and the career is in ruins. . . .

Worse, it isn’t just perception. “You spend time with a young woman who looks up to you, and you feel flattered, and before you know it, one thing leads to another,” says a partner at a New York firm. “Things happen.”

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