Mentoring is vital for successful career mobility. In 2010, women indicated that mentoring was critical to their decision to remain at a job or leave. In 2020, 83% of women indicated that they currently have or have had a mentor that supported their career. Survey findings reveal that access to mentors is more common in 2020 than in 2010. In 2010, among respondents who did not have a mentor, 87% reported that their lack of mentorship was due to a lack of opportunity. In 2020, only 60% of those without a mentor indicated that this is due to a lack of opportunity to have a mentor.
He said I can’t ride alone with you in the car. That happened lots of times when a lunch would be planned, if everybody dropped out except me, the male attorney would say yeah that doesn’t look right. Men who wouldn’t shut the door if I were in their office.
Because of the composition of leadership ranks, the responsibility for mentoring early career women lawyers often falls to men in more senior positions. Yet in 2010 and 2020, a significant number of women and men indicated that the so-called “Pence Rule” is common and widespread in Utah’s legal profession. The “Pence Rule” refers to the preference of some men to limit contact with women colleagues outside of formal professional obligations by avoiding travel, meals or closed-door meetings with women in the workplace. In the wake of renewed efforts to report and reduce sexual harassment, some have promoted the “Pence Rule” as a way to limit contact between men and women so as to limit any behavior that could be misunderstood as romantic or sexual in nature.
While motivated by an effort to minimize harassment or misperception, this type of gender-based distancing can contribute to stalled career advancement for women due to a lack of mentoring, reduced access to high-profile assignments such as those that require travel and exclusion from a range of informal social networking opportunities that are vital for professional success. In 2010, many women lawyers indicated that their men colleagues would not travel, go to lunch or support them through mentorship or sponsorship relationships. The 2020 survey revealed that 45% of men attorneys are hesitant to travel alone with a woman colleague while 31% of men indicated that they are hesitant to have lunch with a woman colleague.
Nearly all of our interview respondents recalled incidents and experiences where such social distancing by men colleagues limited their assignments, networking efforts and career mobility.