Wednesday, May 27, 2009

women in corporate america

to lilac's earlier post, i have a few thoughts of my own here, i'd like to add.  

1) the best lesson i learned about how to operate was from a woman.  her name was maureen and she was the top salesperson in GE capital's leasing office where i worked as a college summer intern.  they sold leases for commercial auto and truck leases - a real male dominated industry.  and here was maureen - a petite Irish redhead who came in every day at 9:30, left by 4 and took 3 months off every year to have a kid for the past 4 years.  her secret was - she never wasted a single second at the proverbial water cooler, and when she called on a customer of a potential truck lease, she knew exactly why she was going into that customer and why they would buy the product.  

2) the nurturing instinct can be turned into a positive in a corporate environment.  nature has shown that the maternal instinct carries its own forms of aggression.  the mother cub vigorously defending attacks on her litter.  the hamster who eats her young if they are tainted.  nuturing isn't all gumdrops and lollipops.

3) i've spoken to people who remember working in the 70's, back when women were called girls and there were no women or ethnicities of any kind, and they admit it's odd for them in a demographic way - it's odd for them to see the passage of time and the changes in the framework.   that's not sexist, that's just honest.  now i work for an african american boss, and the beauty is that when he says "how's your girl doing" refering to an exec assistant - i can't tell if he's being sexist or if that's just slang.  but either way, it's somehow more appropriate as slang.  and the point is - slang is just that.  it's vernacular.  it's the way people in shared cultures talk.  the shared culture used to be being a white male.  the shared culture might be changing now, but they always do exist.

4) last but most important; to be treated with respect you must demand the same level of respect on a regular basis.  there are a number of cues that people pick up on very quickly to determine if you're someone they should treat with the level of respect you deserve:

dress well but not in a noticeable way.
say hello and make eye contact with people in hallways.
expect people to remember your name.
pre-emptively introduce yourself to senior people, don't wait to be introduced.  
if you're given the floor, finish the presentation you came with.  hog every floor you're given.
when you give a presentation, read through the slides.  don't skip around or gloss it over.
for some reason (don't ask me why) if there's small talk to be had, let the man take the lead - if they lead with small talk, you follow.  if they are silent, attempting to make small talk will end badly.
people who refer to women as "ladies" are beyond help sexist pigs.  they will never reform.  treat them at an arms length.
under no circumstances should you be seen in the lunchroom or in a big meeting with anyone who is an admin or similar to an admin.   by all means socialize with them at 3pm and discuss your nailpolish and shoes - just not the lunchroom.   

1 comment:

Lilac - Like The Flower said...

It's so true. Ladies is a tell tale sign.

Also, anyone who tells stories about their wives that net out to "Little Lady can't do math well enough to manage a budget" or "Little lady can't negotiate with the car salesman".

If they opted to marry someone they perceive as helpless, it's unlikely they'll think of you differently.

Another trick - open with a weighty comment or observation. Let them know right away that you pack a punch.