Unequal playing field

Some male members of Congress are refusing to be alone with female staffers

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Win McNamee/Getty Images

The National Journal has revealed a new problem beginning to plague some corners of Capitol Hill: some women congressional staffers are being barred from any one-on-one time whatsoever with their male bosses over fears that the men might be accused of carrying on an inappropriate relationship, according to the results of an anonymous survey. Although the problem is not prevalent, several female staffers have reported that they’ve not been allowed to be alone with their male bosses, forcing them to face difficulties in and out of the office. One woman who worked in the Senate reportedly said she had to stop accompanying her male boss to events because she was “appearing in the background of too many photos with the senator.” This practice makes private meetings about sensitive discussions impossible for women, who are trying to be seen as professionals, to take part in. And their exclusion from such meetings gives male colleagues a leg up as the men easily glide into important meetings, exclusive receptions, and their boss’s office for a casual, closed-door chat. “So much happens in creating trustful relationships and if you can’t develop a trustful relationship where you’re having some one-on-one time, as the men apparently are getting—I can see many reasons why this is a terrible idea, terrible in the sense of discriminatory,” said employment discrimination attorney Debra S. Katz, calling the practice “clearly unlawful.” As if women in Washington needed another hurdle.

Read the full story at National Journal.

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