Excuse me while I vent.
Here is the background:
I work in the marketing department of a mid-sized company. My two bosses (the Vice President and the Owner of the company) always joke that I’m like the one-woman marketing department. All of our sales support and marketing activities primarily go through me. I work hard and they acknowledge it. We have an excellent rapport and one of the things I enjoy most about my boss is that he is always eager to learn, to widen his horizons and to try out new things to expand business.
This typically results in meetings with a lot of different outside companies and vendors, all promising many services and tools that are “guaranteed” to spike business through the roof. I sit in on these meetings not just because it directly affects me, as the one-woman marketing department, but also because I can discern when an outside company is simply trying to sell us on something and when they may actually have a service that could benefit us (whereas my boss gets excited and his ideas start flowing and occasionally we’ll end up with a service we don’t need or use).
One such meeting occurred yesterday afternoon. A man scheduled an appointment with us to demo a database and sell us on a monthly subscription service to it (for marketing, direct mail and e-mail purposes). This is my open letter to him after our one-hour meeting.
You may not believe it, but I know guys like you. I’ve met them, seen them and had the always-unfortunate experience of crossing their paths many times before in my life. I’m not sure if the copious amount of gel shellacked to your head temporarily ceased function in several choice spots of your brain, if you really are just that much of a dick or if you’re the last of a dying breed that adheres to the “old-school”, “good old boy” mentality that I despise so much. I think it’s probably a combination of all of the above.
That said, when you’re in a meeting with myself and my two male colleagues, common courtesy is not just welcomed – But expected. And no, common courtesy is not refusing to look at me, speak to me or acknowledge my presence in the meeting until you decide to make an inappropriate joke about me cold-calling men in your database and what I might say to get their attention and score a sales appointment in front of them.
First of all, I don’t even do cold-calling. I am not a salesperson. We have a few very qualified, professional salespeople who are experts at creating and maintaining business relationships and it does not require any of the comments that you “jokingly” suggested I make to the men in your database to “get their attention”. Did you assume that I was a salesperson because I was a woman? Did you assume I was straight because I’m a feminine woman? And, naturally, the only way for a woman salesperson (of any preference) to get ahead would be to use sexual prowess and the power of subtle suggestion, is that right?
I don’t even want to know your answers. I suppose it’s my own fault – I’ve been spoiled by working for true gentlemen. They value my opinion, treat me as an equal and encourage my thoughts and suggestions. Silly me, I had almost forgotten that dinosaurs like you still exist in the business world. I suppose this meeting came as such a slap in the face because I hadn’t before encountered such blatant sexism in the workplace before. You refused to even LOOK at me and instead directed your buddy-buddy, “hardy-har-har” sales spiel to the two men in the room. And when you DID decide to acknowledge my presence? It was to demean the work I do and suggest that the only reason a woman could possibly be successful is through relying on her feminine wiles.
I get it – I’m young-ish. I have a baby face, which tends to work against me because it makes me look even a few years younger than I am. Maybe I remind you of your neighbor’s kid, or your own daughter, or a niece – And it’s impossible to think of that person as an equal in the business world. Or maybe I’m giving you too much credit, because you were a total asshole. So, yeah. I’m a woman. And no, I am not considered “upper management” – However I DO work very hard and I AM the one that would not only be the primary user of your product BUT I am also the one that would be your liaison to the two upper management gentlemen that you were trying so very hard to impress yesterday.
So, Mr. Businessman, I appreciated yesterday’s wake-up call. After we wrapped up, when you made a point to shake the two male managers’ hands and paused for a moment when I put my hand out to shake as well, I gritted my teeth and smiled. When you sat so comfortably, one foot balanced on the opposite knee, and explained the ins and outs of the program while glancing at each of the men in the room, I nodded and pretended like you weren’t the biggest douche to walk the planet. But please don’t ever think I buttoned my lip and sat with composure because I’m a proud member of what you view as the “weaker” sex – It’s called having dignity and class, especially.
Maybe you’ll learn that elusive thing called “class” – So that the next time you leave your empty Starbucks cup by my desk for me to dispose of when you’re on your way out, you’ll realize your error and apologize before picking it up and taking it with you. Or, better yet, simply ask me where the trash can is. Maybe. Then again, maybe not – I wasn’t kidding when I called you a dinosaur before, you know. And you know what happened to THEM, right? When you can’t adapt to change, you fade away. Personally, and please don’t take this as one of those “bitchy, femi-nazi” comments Mr. Businessman, I truly can’t wait until your breed fades away.
So, after that whole experience, the word “delusional” keeps clunking around my brain. I don’t know why, sometimes I just get words stuck in my head and use them in, like, every other sentence for a few weeks until a new one gets lodged between my brain and my mouth. I blame the “Word of the Day” exercises in junior high. I was the one nerd that actually looked forward to it…Wait, what? Never mind, my “coolness coat” momentarily slipped off. I digress.
So, yeah. Delusional. It’s no secret that I’ve been feeling a bit more disillusioned with the world, and people, in general lately than what is typical for me. But disillusioned is not delusional. I think I was a bit delusional because I hadn’t experienced a good, hard bout of sexism in a while that yesterday’s experience literally shocked me into reality. And the reality is that it is still a big problem. And I think it’s safe to say Mr. Businessman was more than a little deluded – That type of behavior is never okay.
That said, if I never have to see his triple chin gathered over the collar of his button-up dress shirt again it will be too soon. There is a lesson here somewhere (lay off the fast-food now, before it catches up to your neck in old age?), but I’m still just too damn irritated to see it right now. Give me some time and I’ll gain some insight from this experience, but right now – “Ugh” is all I got.