While our elected officials tend to be predominately male, the staffers who handle them – young, energetic go-getters fresh from grad school – are increasingly female. Yet fear of the political rumor mill is causing some congressmen to never meet one on one with female staffers.
The National Journal conducted an anonymous survey with female staffers in order to gather information on the difficulties they face in their careers.
While many reported usual issues, such as long hours, whether to have families and similar concerns, several aides reported being barred from being with their male bosses at evening events, driving alone with them, or even sitting down one-on-one in his office behind a closed door.
The issue is interesting because it shows both a sensitivity to gender issues and also the intractability of the issues facing our elected officials.
Male educators or child workers, for instance, will almost never meet females in their care on one on – most meetings are done with third parties involved to ensure no impropriety or false accusations of such behavior.
But in the workplace, where one-on-one time leads to career advancement, it may not be sufficient to simply avoid such meetings as is possible in other professions. Equal opportunity is well entrenched in employment law and attorneys contact regarding this issue were clear: even if erring on the side of safety, such policies are probably against employment law and could open up those who practice them to discrimination accusations.
Yet fortunately the issue is hardly the norm. Numerous staffers contacted in the survey and by subsequent media inquiries, both male and female, said they had never experienced or even heard of such a policy.