Diversity for thee

You hear a lot of this sentiment these days:

The country’s top judge says her colleagues must become more diverse in order to better represent the public.

Lady Hale addressed the issue as she marked the centenary of the act that enabled women to enter profession.

The first female president of the supreme court called for the judiciary to increase its diversity to avoid the risk of being seen as ‘from another planet’.

This would include greater balance in gender representation at Britain’s highest court and quicker promoting for ethnic minorities and those from less privileged backgrounds, the Guardian reports.

A couple of months back I was at a seminar in which several ageing men on the stage signaled their virtue to the audience by bemoaning the gender balance of the panel, which was around 7:3 in favour of men. About a year ago I listened to another bunch of ageing men on a stage, this time in the auditorium of an oil company, saying they need to do more to promote women into senior positions. My immediate thought was, if these people considered the matter so pressing, why don’t they resign and hand their position to a more deserving female? Similarly, if pasty-white Lady Hale believes Britain’s judiciary should become more ethnically diverse, what better way to kick-start the process by replacing her with a minority?

You can be sure that anyone who has wormed their way onto a panel at a seminar, climbed the greasy pole up to executive management in an oil company, or backstabbed their way to becoming Britain’s top judge has only one person’s career in mind: their own. At every step of their career they would have sandbagged and outmaneuvered anyone who represented competition, be they white, brown, yellow, male, or female. When they were middle managers somewhere eyeing their next promotion they weren’t harping on about the need for greater representation or increased diversity. No, they were promoting themselves. But now the top job is securely under their belt and retirement is on the horizon, they want other people to sacrifice their career ambitions on the altar of diversity politics. The correct response is to either ignore their self-serving virtue-signaling, or to draw attention to their hypocrisy and mock them mercilessly.

Next time you hear someone calling for increased diversity in their organisation, you should ask why they haven’t resigned yet.


Don’t mention the flaw!

Once upon a time I was posted to a department in an oil company which dealt with the early-stage designs of new installations, much of which was geared towards providing enough information for a cost estimate to be carried out. To a rough order of magnitude, the cost of a new offshore installation (either floating or fixed to the seabed) can be estimated from its weight. Keeping things simple, the weight of an offshore facility comprises Equipment Weight, Piping Weight, Structural Weight, and Others. If you have enough data, it is theoretically possible to work out the total weight of a new offshore installation by taking just the Equipment Weight and applying various ratios from similar, existing facilities. Most large engineering companies do this in order to obtain order-of-magnitude weights and cost estimates, but it is very much a finger-in-the-air approach which, at the early stages of a project, is fine.

The problem with my new department was they did the equivalent of dividing 11.3 by 3.4 and writing the answer as 3.32352941. Any GCSE science or maths teacher will tell you the answer to any calculation cannot be more accurate than the initial input data. But when we did estimates using data with an accuracy of ± 30%, we’d make comparisons of estimates that were within 10% of each other and propose weight savings of 5%. If you think it’s just journalists who are innumerate, be aware there are engineers with the same affliction working in large oil companies.

Then things got a whole lot worse. Weight ratios apply to offshore facilities because they are designed as a single unit relatively unaffected by their location (I’m talking topsides or floaters here, not the jackets or other support structures). I’m simplifying massively, but the point is that the weights of floating and other offshore facilities are not primarily driven by where they are installed. By contrast, the cost and complexity of onshore installations is enormously impacted by topography and geotechnical conditions under the soil. As you can imagine, building a facility on flat, firm ground is a bit easier than doing so on the side of a granite mountain or in a marsh. Civil engineering accounts for approximately 30-40% of the cost of constructing an onshore oil and gas installation, mainly grading the site, bringing in aggregate and compacting, and building the vast underground networks of pipes and cables needed to run the thing. This is why the first things you do when you’re thinking about building an onshore plant is the topographical and geotechnical survey; it’s sort of hard to do anything without it.

But I worked with very clever people, and they came up with a way of estimating the costs of an onshore facility regardless of where it was located. Insofar as topography went we could just assume it was flat, and soil conditions could be ignored or data from a project on another continent used instead. That soil conditions can vary dramatically across a hundred metres didn’t seem to matter. Furthermore, we could use ratios to work out the weights like we did offshore. Now I spied a problem with this. Offshore, on a global basis, there is probably a relationship between Total Equipment Weight and Total Structural Weight; all equipment on such facilities is supported by structural steel, after all. But onshore equipment is generally placed on a concrete plinth sunk into the ground, the size of which is driven by the soil conditions and equipment weight. The structural steel supports some equipment and a lot of piping and cables, but it does a very different job to that on offshore facilities. In many instances, the structural steel around a piece of onshore equipment is negligible. In short, on an onshore plant there is no ratio from other facilities which can be used to estimate structural weight using equipment weight. But here were were, applying the same methodology as if it could.

Having some experience on onshore sites, I began to use my noggin a little. In one estimate, I ascertained that a vessel had no structural steel at all: it rested on its own legs and there was no maintainable valve on top which would need an access platform. But two managers queried this: they asked how the structural steel weight could be zero. I said it was because there is no structure associated with this vessel. They said this must be wrong, and I should apply a ratio of 30% vessel weight. So I asked them what structure they thought I was missing. They couldn’t say, but they told me to add the weight in, which came to several tonnes.

A little later, they got an intern with no post-graduate engineering experience to create a formal procedure for estimating the weights of onshore facilities, convinced that from such data the costs could be derived. They then passed it around all the engineers for comments. I noticed that it did not consider many components of the underground networks, which as I said comprises a huge portion of the costs. The most glaring omission was the firewater ring main, which is big, expensive, and common to all onshore oil and gas facilities. The reason this wasn’t included was because it would be designed “later”, which I found actually meant “nobody here knows anything about firewater ring mains so it’s best to pretend they don’t exist”.

I’d only been in the department a few weeks and I naively thought I’d be being helpful by pointing out, as I have done above, why this new methodology drawn up by the intern was fatally flawed. I drafted a comprehensive email with examples and explanations and sent it to my boss and the head of department, whose brainchild this new methodology was. A few days later I was called into an office where both of them were waiting and told to close the door. Their talk with me can be summarised as follows:

“We have read your email, but the decision has been made to adopt this methodology going forward. Your job is to follow it without asking questions.”

This was probably the first time it dawned on me that in many corporate departments results are meaningless, and all that matters is people obediently follow the process. I fought it for about a year, then just got with the program and pumped out absolute garbage which got wrapped up in more garbage and presented to senior management right up to the CEO. It didn’t take me long to work out whatever rubbish we were generating was not the basis on which decisions were getting made – the company wouldn’t be in business if that were the case – and the entire process, which cost millions of dollars, was merely to keep people employed. I once remarked in the wake of the oil price crash that if the company wanted to cut costs they could get rid of our entire department and employ a child to roll dice every time senior management wanted figures. That went down about as well as my critique of the estimation methodology.

The experience left me wondering how much of this sort of thing goes on in major corporations with names you’ve heard of. Quite a bit, would be my guess.


Graph Trouble

Maybe my readers can help me out here. I’m researching the link between gender diversity and company performance, and having read about 20 academic papers on the subject I’m now looking at studies various companies have done. Currently I’m on this one (.pdf) from Credit Suisse, in which they evaluate 3,400 companies across 10 sectors in 40 countries including 27,000 CEOs and senior executives. This graph on page 25 is confusing me:

If you were to plot the share prices of two random companies, you’d not expect them to follow the same path. If you were to plot the share prices of two companies in the same industrial sector exposed to much the same market forces, you’d perhaps expect to see them follow similar paths. But how likely is it that you take 3,400 companies across 10 sectors and 40 countries, divide them into baskets depending on the number of women in senior management, plot the share prices and they all have roughly the same shape?

Given the only differentiation between the baskets is the number of women in senior management, I’d have expected each line to be of a different shape, reflecting the combined fortunes of each individual company in each sector in each country. Is this a complete fudge, or am I missing something here?


Incentives matter, part 23,567

This is a fascinating line from an academic paper I’m reading:

Stanwick (2001) found a strong association between CEO compensation and a firm’s reputation for being environmentally progressive.

This can be read several ways, but one interpretation is that CEOs sign up to green initiatives because it justifies their higher pay, or reduces criticism of it. Which would explain one hell of a lot, frankly.


The problem of activist proxies

Via a reader, this is a very interesting document (.pdf) from the US Chamber of Commerce containing one of their member’s testimony to a Senate Committee. This excerpt near the beginning gives a flavour of what they’re protesting:

Public companies and their shareholders are increasingly targeted through the proxy system and other means over issues that are unrelated to – and sometimes, even at odds with – enhancing long-term performance. Topics that should be reserved for the legislative and executive branches of government – including a variety of social and political issues that may not be directly correlated to the success of the company – are increasingly finding their way into proxy statements and being debated in boardrooms. This has created significant costs for shareholders and in many instances has distracted boards and management from focusing on the best interests of the company.

In short, activist shareholders are demanding companies adopt SJW-driven policies which have a detrimental effect on financial performance. So who’s responsible?

As the Manhattan Institute has pointed out, labor-affiliated pension plans have historically been the most active at advancing such agendas that do not correlate with long term performance. From 2006-2015, labor-affiliated investors sponsored 32% of all shareholder proposals at the Fortune 250, many of which deal topics of a social or political nature. Both the Department of Labor (DOL) Inspector General and the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit have expressed skepticism as to whether the shareholder activism engaged in by labor-affiliated funds is actually connected to increasing share value.

No doubt those in charge of managing the pension funds have guaranteed incomes and rock-solid personal finances so are happy to risk their members’ retirement incomes to pursue their own political goals. There is some good news, though:

The DOL took action this year in order to ensure that Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) fiduciaries are making investments based on economic factors and not elevating environmental, social, or governance (ESG) impacts over returns.

I wonder how many pension funds divested from oil stock, which traditionally pays consistent dividends, at the behest of SJWs?

A 2015 Manhattan Institute Report found that the social activism engaged in by certain public pension plan systems – such as the California Public Employee Retirement System (CalPERS) and the New York State Common Retirement System (NYSCR) – is actually correlated with lower returns for the plans. In other words, public pension plan beneficiaries and taxpayers in such jurisdictions are actually harmed when the overseers of public pension plans emphasize social or political goals over the economic return of the plan.

Outdated SEC proxy rules have allowed motivated special interests to take advantage of this system to the detriment of Main Street investors and pensioners. The problems we face today have in part stemmed from a lack of proper oversight over proxy advisory firms and a failure to modernize corporate disclosure requirements. Activists have been able to hijack shareholder meetings with proposals concerning pet issues – all to the detriment of the vast majority of America’s investors.

So the problem isn’t just that activists wreck the returns for their own members, they wreck those of anyone else investing in the company as well. I suppose the moral of the story is, when choosing a company to invest in, to look at whether their stockholders include public pension plans – particularly those from the New York or Californian public sectors.

This also chimes slightly with what I’ve been said before:

The deficiencies within the U.S. proxy system must also be viewed against the backdrop of the sharp decline of public companies over the past two decades. The United States is now home to roughly half the number of public companies than existed in the mid-1990s and the overall number of public listings is little changed from 1983. While the JOBS Act helped arrest that decline, too many companies are deciding that going or staying public is not in their long-term best interest.

So stay small, stay private, and avoid both regulations and the lunatics. It also won’t surprise many to learn that government regulations have created a cosy little duopoly, either:

Activist campaigns, as well as routine proxy matters that companies deal with today, are also magnified by the outsized influence of proxy advisory firms. Two firms – Institutional Shareholder Services (“ISS”) and Glass Lewis – constitute roughly 97% of the proxy advisory firm market, yet both are riddled with conflicts of interest, operate with little transparency, and are prone to making significant errors in vote recommendations that jeopardize the ability of investors to make informed decisions in their best interests.

What was I saying earlier about “guaranteed incomes and rock-solid personal finances”? The authors believe the answer is greater regulation for proxy advisory firms, but I don’t know if that won’t just deliver another set of unintended consequences further down the line. My preferred solution is more people stand up to idiotic lefties and SJWs wherever they are to found, using mockery, humiliation, and a refusal to play their game. Alas that will require courage, a trait largely absent in today’s business world.


Wishful thinking

The other day, Soviet-born demented NeverTrumper Max Boot tweeted this:

Leave aside the silly notions that:

1. Running government is the same as flying an airplane: does a pilot need to juggle dozens of competing interests with one eye on his job between takeoff and landing?

2. Government is about qualifications: if it were, why bother with elections?

3. People who think they’re the sort of expert who should be in government ought to be anywhere near the levers of power.

Let’s instead look at the idea that we want the best qualified people to design buildings. Is it true? Well, I’ve been involved in some civil infrastructure projects and I recall the contracts were generally awarded to the local company with the strongest political connections. I’ve also been involved in several engineering tenders and although lip-service is paid to quality and track record, it generally goes to the bidder with the lowest price.

And then there’s this:

State, local and federal government agencies regularly make a certain number of contracts open to bidding from minority-owned business enterprises, or MBEs. This minority business certification is a designation given to companies with women or ethnic minorities in control or in ownership. Learning how to bid on minority government contracts involves securing appropriate forms of certification and identifying and applying for contracts posted by various state and federal government agencies.

So we want the best qualified to design buildings, do we? If only.


Rule by technocrat

This is a good article on France, Macron, and the yellow vest movement, in particular:

Whether on the Right, center or Left, French politicians and senior government officials are an astonishingly homogenous bunch. Almost all of them have studied at the grandes écoles like the École Nationale d’Administration. These institutions serve to furnish a group of highly educated individuals. Commonly referred to as “les énarques,” they rotate between elected office, the private sector, and the state bureaucracy, thereby ostensibly lending stability to France’s notoriously cantankerous politics.

These schools produce well-trained technocrats furnished with the mindset that their primary responsibility in life is to serve the state. This is a very different attitude to that which prevails among graduates of most top-level American universities. But the grandes écoles also facilitate a monolithic outlook, an absence of creative thought, and unhealthy patronage networks.

In more recent times, these dispositions have been accompanied by a habit of embracing pretty much every politically correct nostrum. These range from gender ideology (something which infuriates large swathes of French public opinion, and not just on the Right) to environmentalism as a pseudo-religion. This has exacerbated the already huge gap between the viewpoint, life experiences, and priorities of people like Macron—whose personal career path epitomizes the énarque—and most other French people, especially the France of the provinces.

Anyone’s who worked in a company whose upper management are dominated by the graduates of the grandes écoles will relate to that passage. See also here.


Advance-booked appraisal scores

Allow me to pluck excerpts from two comments from beneath my post on HR robots. The first from MJW:

To get into senior management/exec ranks they need patronage. Ability and tacit understanding is not so crucial as decisions made may destroy the organisation, just not immediately, anything likely to cause immediate damage should be routed to an underling who understands what they are doing. If the senior manager/exec knows what they are doing it’s a brucey bonus, if they don’t it doesn’t matter, the ‘managerialist’ approach treats the business does as a black box administered by generic techniques.


Rotating senior managers/execs through posting for ‘for experience’ is mainly done to boost CVs so their patron can elevate them if/when opportunity to put one of their clients in place emerges. It also helps to diffuse accountability and protect both client and patron.

The second from Fay:

Managers were informed by HR that they could no longer rate employees as “outstanding”.

These two comments are actually talking about the same problem. The golden boys and girls who are fast-tracked to senior management need to give something back to their patron that they can wave around as proof their prodigy deserves such rapid promotion. The best thing they can offer besides hours of grovelling to senior management is an “Outstanding” score on their annual appraisal – the highest level. If the prodigy scores Outstanding in successive years, the patron can point to it when haggling for his golden child to take the next plum position, and use it to fend off their detractors. This got to the point where the golden children would be pretty much guaranteed to get an Outstanding score, no doubt due to pressure from the patron on the manager doing the appraisal. Perhaps that’s not even necessary: most managers are fully aware if they have a golden child in their team and get with the programme of not doing anything which might upset their ascendancy. Who knows, they might need to call in a favour sometime in future?

This was working well until someone decided a few years back that too many people were getting Outstanding scores. With brown-nosing so ubiquitous and modern managers wanting the love from their team they can’t get from their wives, pretty much everybody was scoring well on the appraisals (it’s also quite hard to mark someone down if they turn up and merely do the job). Hell, even I got reasonably good appraisals. So they tweaked the system and decided only a certain percentage of people could get an Outstanding score.

What this meant was the patrons in senior management advance-booked these scores for their golden children and issued instructions to the middle management that no mere pleb could score Outstanding, regardless of actual performance. I was in the room when this was announced and I twigged straight away what had happened and started laughing (it’s not like it would affect me). But a lot of people, especially those who probably deserved the highest appraisal grade, were absolutely livid and rightly so. For fun I asked our department manager how any appraisal system worthy of the description can eliminate an outcome before it’s even started, and all I got was a pathetic shrug and bleating that “this is what management have said”.

It seems that with Fay’s anecdote, this wasn’t only happening in my company. What made it worse is the quota system made it necessary for managers to assign bad appraisal scores to people as well. I was a ripe target for that but I could tell my manager had no stomach for the sort of battle he’d have if he tried that on me, so we tacitly agreed I’d get a middle-ranking score. Instead, he hauled in the quietly spoken Asian bloke and spent two hours coming up with one excuse after another as to why his performance had been rubbish that year.

Welcome to modern management, and modern HR.


HR robots to replace HR drones

One of my observations through my career has been that HR, in the main, is either a remote bureaucracy which might as well be staffed by Martians or a rather dim soul whose jaw hangs half open and does whatever management tells him or her. In the larger companies it’s been the former that prevailed, to the point many HR tasks were outsourced to an office in another country and everyday issues were governed by bulky procedures written by unknown authors who probably couldn’t say what the company does.

This probably doesn’t matter so much when it comes to stuff like contracts, payroll, and holidays but increasingly such personal matters as career progression, recruitment, and even appraisals are getting handled by people who don’t appear to have ever seen the operational side of the business. I’m of the opinion – which might be completely wrong – that businesses which outsource basic human management duties which used to be intrinsic to a line manager’s role are going to end up as bloated, unwieldy bureaucracies filled with unthinking drones who know all about the hierarchy’s latest wheeze but no idea how their activities contribute to the bottom line (assuming they do). As I’ve discussed on here before, I reckon smart, ambitious young folk will start avoiding the behemoths in favour of smaller, more nimble organisations – or they’ll start their own and work in the gig economy. My move into HR was in large part about bridging the gap between operations and HR in order to help a small company grow without creating a sprawling HR bureaucracy which sends anyone capable running for the exit.

I was therefore probably the wrong person to attend a presentation by an HR specialist in a major consulting firm, who wanted to tell us how automation, computers, and AI is going to revolutionise how companies manage their human resources. Now some of it is obvious, such as the aforementioned contracts, holiday approval, etc. and is ripe for automation. But I was rather surprised to see some of the functions which workers currently detest being handled by an HR drone who might as well be a robot are soon going to be done by an actual robot. One example he gave was a version of the MS-Word paperclip answering questions from an employee about their career aspirations and suggesting suitable training programmes. I can’t imagine any ambitious employee with an ounce of self-respect interacting with an automated chat bot to obtain career advice.

One of the biggest complaints I used to hear from my erstwhile colleagues was about the career management system. You’d be assigned someone who doesn’t know you and, if they’ve read your CV, doesn’t care about anything which occurred before you showed up on their doorstep. Most of the time they have no expertise in the positions they are trying to fill, nor the knowledge to appraise an individual’s skills. My career manager had worked her whole life as a translator before being put in charge of the careers of dozens of project engineers and managers. The thing is, it doesn’t really matter: in many large companies, particularly oil companies, the golden boys and girls are hand-picked early on and their careers carefully managed with plum postings while everyone else is just a pleb who gets slotted in wherever they fit, or don’t. For the vast majority “career management” is simply a charade to convince people they have a chance of promotion and recognition. This is why it’s managed by the cheapest person they can find, and it might as well be done by a robot. The same is true for annual appraisals: it’s blindingly obvious to everyone that managers and employees just go through the motions, and treat the whole thing as a painful admin exercise which must be completed before Christmas after which nothing changes. They are becoming increasingly automated, and eventually will be fully so. You can imagine what value an automated employee appraisal system adds, aside from ticking a compliance box that they get carried out. And if companies are going to automate recruitment, I can’t see it bringing an end to the laments of department managers who are kept out of the process and sent candidates that are hopelessly unsuited to the position.

I stuck my paw in the air and asked whether increasing the already giant chasm between flesh-and-blood workers and HR is a good idea and got an interesting response. Firstly I was told that companies aren’t stupid and they wouldn’t do anything which would harm their operations and upset their staff. That HR functions have already been taken away from line management and given to remote, sprawling bureaucracies ought to give lie to that statement. The second was that the move to automation and AI will free up HR resources to concentrate on those more important, human-related tasks. What those were we weren’t told, but I made the point that unless HR actually knows something about the job the workers do, freeing up resources won’t help. HR is not short of resources, they’re short of knowledge and competence. I’m not sure this remark went down very well.

I suspect what’s happening is this. The consultants have come up with very clever software which they’re now flogging to big companies, whose HR directors see a way to reduce costs, get rid of annoying admin tasks, and boost their prestige by being owners of a fancy IT system. Senior managers in big companies are suckers for big tech solutions, which is why there are fleets of high-end Porsches in the car parks of consulting companies. They’ll adopt this software and fire a few drones, but they won’t save costs. Firstly, many HR departments exist to provide jobs: a proper business review would have got rid of them regardless of technological progress. Secondly, the HR personnel who are now free of the admin burdens will turn their attention to more pressing matters – such as sexual harassment trainings and diversity workshops. I’m sure this will cheer the workforce up no-end.

The one thing missing from this architecture was any solid link in knowledge and experience between HR and what the company actually does. Apparently workers were consulted by the designers of these systems, and I daresay in some cases this was done properly and good feedback obtained. But the whole thing looked to me like a top-down, Soviet-style project where clever people sit in a room and design a system to serve tens of thousands of people they’ve never met and couldn’t even describe, and they’ve done it so brilliantly it can be applied anywhere regardless of industry. And the difference between what this and what we have now is it removes every last trace of human contact and understanding. How will this turn out, do you think?

It’s rather ironic that the new era of human resource management, in which whole ranges of human behaviours, desires, and emotions are supposedly considered, is reckoned by experts to be best managed by an algorithm. I waved my paw in the air again and pointed out there’s somewhat of a contradiction between saying businesses must become more touchy-feely as Millennials join who want to feel special and valued from the outset, and mass-managing all personal issues with a robot. But someone piped up and said they were a Millennial and they didn’t care who processed their payroll. Which is true, but they might care who – or what – decides you can’t change department, alter your workload, or complain about how your boss communicates with you.

I daresay these automated HR systems will become the norm in large companies, increasing the gap between them and those outfits which actually do the productive work in any given industry. And they will be yet one more reason for smart, ambitious young people to avoid huge corporations and go somewhere smaller, or work for themselves.


For every action there’s a reaction

A couple of weeks back, in the context of a professor who’d been reprimanded over a lame joke in a lift which upset a vinegar-drinking feminist, I said this:

If this keeps up, segregated workplaces will look like an increasingly attractive proposition. At the very least, sensible men will avoid certain women at all costs – and certain companies.

A few days ago, several readers alerted me to this article:

Call it the Pence Effect, after U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, who has said he avoids dining alone with any woman other than his wife. In finance, the overarching impact can be, in essence, gender segregation.

Well, yes. As I’ve mentioned before, the logical solution to the alleged problem that women are routinely sexually harassed at work by men is segregation of the sexes. And if men are placed in a situation whereby they can have their livelihoods ruined by a mere allegation from a woman, this segregation will be self-imposed.

Now, more than a year into the #MeToo movement — with its devastating revelations of harassment and abuse in Hollywood, Silicon Valley and beyond — Wall Street risks becoming more of a boy’s club, rather than less of one.

So women demanded to work alongside men, then complained about how men behaved around them, and are now complaining men are avoiding them. I’m beginning to think there’s a grain of truth in some of those stereotypes.

“Women are grasping for ideas on how to deal with it, because it is affecting our careers,” said Karen Elinski, president of the Financial Women’s Association and a senior vice president at Wells Fargo & Co. “It’s a real loss.”

Having allowed the issue of women in the workplace to be hijacked by lunatic feminists bent on poisoning relations between the sexes, ordinary women are now finding their careers are suffering. Maybe they should have policed their own ranks a little better?

There’s a danger, too, for companies that fail to squash the isolating backlash and don’t take steps to have top managers be open about the issue and make it safe for everyone to discuss it, said Stephen Zweig, an employment attorney with FordHarrison.

“If men avoid working or traveling with women alone, or stop mentoring women for fear of being accused of sexual harassment,” he said, “those men are going to back out of a sexual harassment complaint and right into a sex discrimination complaint.”

For the SJWs pushing this insanity, this is a feature not a bug. Their aim is to hold arbitrary power over men such that, no matter what they do or don’t do, their lives can be destroyed.

For obvious reasons, few will talk openly about the issue. Privately, though, many of the men interviewed acknowledged they’re channeling Pence, saying how uneasy they are about being alone with female colleagues, particularly youthful or attractive ones, fearful of the rumor mill or of, as one put it, the potential liability.

Men aren’t stupid, and they will create strategies which enable them to politely go through the motions with female colleagues just enough to avoid a discrimination suit, but otherwise keep their distance. Men are very good at doing this with men they don’t like, so it won’t be too hard to do it with women. For example:

A manager in infrastructure investing said he won’t meet with female employees in rooms without windows anymore; he also keeps his distance in elevators. A late-40-something in private equity said he has a new rule, established on the advice of his wife, an attorney: no business dinner with a woman 35 or younger.

The changes can be subtle but insidious, with a woman, say, excluded from casual after-work drinks, leaving male colleagues to bond, or having what should be a private meeting with a boss with the door left wide open.

There are as many or more men who are responding in quite different ways. One, an investment adviser who manages about 100 employees, said he briefly reconsidered having one-on-one meetings with junior women. He thought about leaving his office door open, or inviting a third person into the room.

This amused, however:

Finally, he landed on the solution: “Just try not to be an asshole.”

That’s pretty much the bottom line, said Ron Biscardi, chief executive officer of Context Capital Partners. “It’s really not that hard.”

Oh, you think being nice is going to protect you? Sure, not being an asshole will stand you in good stead with 99% of female employees, but as the article says:

“Some men have voiced concerns to me that a false accusation is what they fear,” said Zweig, the lawyer. “These men fear what they cannot control.”

So they’ll take back control. Instead of having formal events the men will just meet for drinks independently, inviting a few like-minded chaps from other firms around to dispel any charge they’re at a works function.

In this charged environment, the question is how the response to #MeToo might actually end up hurting women’s progress. Given the male dominance in Wall Street’s top jobs, one of the most pressing consequences for women is the loss of male mentors who can help them climb the ladder.

Oh dear. It turns out a movement accusing men of sexual harassment en masse has some drawbacks. Who would have thought?

“Advancement typically requires that someone at a senior level knows your work, gives you opportunities and is willing to champion you within the firm. It’s hard for a relationship like that to develop if the senior person is unwilling to spend one-on-one time with a more junior person.”

I brought this up in my latest podcast. In practice, career progression is made by one-on-one brown-nosing, which is often harder for women to do than men for precisely the reason it may be misconstrued. The answer is to stop using this as a method of personal advancement.

Men have to step up, she said, and “not let fear be a barrier.”

That ship sailed so long ago it’s circumnavigated the globe and is nudging us in the back. Over to you, ladies.