Current Situation & Work Environment
I am a male engineering manager at a mid-size, mixed-discipline company in the U.S.. We have fewer than a handful of women in our engineering department and some departments have no women at all.
One of the engineers on my team is a woman who recently conveyed a concern that in situations in which another's behavior is inappropriate (wherever it is on the scale of uncomfortable, rude, offensive, or outright abusive), the only real outlet she has is to go to HR and file a report (or "just talk" but it's unclear what our HR representatives do with "just talks"). The other women in the department are on other projects and there aren't many in other disciplines whom our team interacts with on a regular basis.
Concerns to Address
After talking with her, she and I identified a couple of specific concerns with the current situation.
First, she doesn't have any way of knowing about potential coworkers/groups with predatory or misogynistic behavior in advance. If there were more women in the environment, she would be able to talk to them and hear their experiences on an individual level ("Person X is constantly trying to invite me to parties") and at the structural level ("this meeting group doesn't ever take my feedback seriously").
Second, if a more serious incident were to occur involving one of the women at the company, the others wouldn't have any awareness of it or ability to back up that woman's claims with their own experiences, increasing the chances that it would get swept under the rug.
What I'm Looking For in an Answer
Does anyone have any suggestions for addressing and/or solving these concerns? Obviously, telling her to "get to know your coworkers in other departments" is practical advice but not particularly helpful. Are there good solutions that others have used in solving similar problems? I've spoken to our HR department and naturally their stance is "come to us and talk about anything anytime!" which, similarly, is not particularly helpful (and I think there's an extremely valid concern that the more often you talk to HR about the smaller issues, the less likely you will be taken seriously if something very problematic does occur, regardless of how the world should work).
I am interested in solutions that I can implement as her manager, that she could implement herself, or that I could take to our HR department as a recommendation. They could be
- interpersonal (e.g. advice to give her to form relationships with other women around this issue)
- organizational (e.g. working with the women's resource group that we have to better address this issue)
- technical (e.g. an anonymous reporting tool with some level of transparency that makes it better than a black box)