How did #MeToo affect collaboration between women and men in the workplace?

Male and female collaborations decreased – women’s overall productivity fell.

The intent of the #MeToo movement was to improve conditions for women by changing how women and men interact in the workplace. It is an open question whether the movement increased or decreased collaboration between women and men.

Using evidence from research collaboration of junior academic economists in the U.S., this paper shows a decline in new research projects for women after #MeToo. The decline is largely explained by fewer new research projects with male colleagues at the same institution. Junior men work with fewer women, as well, but unlike women they substitute toward projects with male co-authors. Therefore, the overall loss of projects affects women much more than men.

Do women or men drive the collaboration decrease? The evidence suggests that it’s men who decrease collaboration with women to manage what they perceive as higher sexual harassment accusation risk post #MeToo. Why? Collaborations between women and men decline more when the salience of sexual harassment reporting is high, and university sexual harassment policies are unclear in spelling out prohibited behaviors that violate the policy.

#MeToo was important to raise awareness. But the intent was not to impose costs on women’s careers. Collaborations provide important benefits in the creation of output. Women are already disadvantaged in their careers by having fewer networks and collaborations.

Clear sexual harassment policies are important as they allow the movement to create awareness for sexual harassment without hurting women’s productivity.

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