01 May 2017

Take a walk in her heels- being a woman in a corporate world

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Recently I was helping out a male colleague at work, sending invitations to leading international speakers to take part in one of our upcoming events. Coming from my LinkedIn account, it was my photo and name branded on the invitation.

After the first two “regretful declines” I caught myself with an unpleasant thought- what if it’s because I’m a woman?

I can hear your snort of derision. As if gender would make any difference to business negotiations, I hear you say.

Working for a small employment services firm, Martin managed Nicole and there had been complaints from higher up the ladder that she was taking too long with clients and business deals.

One day Martin found himself with a difficult client who was “rude, dismissive, ignoring my questions”. After some back and forth, Martin noticed he had inadvertently been signing his emails as ‘Nicole’, owing to their shared inbox.

For the sake of experiment, Martin told the client he would be taking over the project from Nicole. Immediately his disposition improved, thanking Martin for his suggestions and commenting “great questions!”

For the next two weeks Martin and Nicole switched names. “I was in hell”, Martin tweeted. “Everything I asked or suggested was questioned. Clients I could do in my sleep were condescending. One asked if I was single.”

Meanwhile Nicole’s experience was the opposite. “Nicole had the most productive week of her career.  I realised the reason she took longer is because she had to convince clients to respect her.”

I told this story to my colleagues to mixed reactions of surprise and disgust, however my male colleague and friend for whom I was inviting remained passive.

When I joked that my name might impact his work he easily replied, “If they don’t want to deal with you then I don’t want them anyway.”

Written by: Claire Dowler

Claire Dowler is a Conference Producer with Akolade. She recently graduated with a double degree: a Bachelor of Journalism and a Bachelor of Media and Communications Studies majoring in International Communication. Claire minored in sarcasm and puns.

A ballroom-dancer who collects salt and pepper shakers and volunteers for animal rescue, you might say Claire has eclectic interests.

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