It's Not About Having 2,000 Followers
When Mother Earth Calls - Everyone Should Answer

Honey, can you get me a cup of coffee?

Eyes-on-the-world I was reading my March/April issue of Diversity Magazine and this article, "Things NEVER to Say to Women Executives" got my attention.

In the article, writer Zayda Rivera tells a few horror stories (ok, they aren't 'horror' stories - but they're appalling and insulting and isn't that horrible if you're on the receiving end?) of C-level professionals calling their female contemporaries, "Honey." She also shares some sexual innuendos - usually meant as a compliment; like: "Wow, you look great in that sweater! You should wear it more often." Said while eyes are anywhere but focused on the woman's face.

The article is a good one, but it misses some points. Mainly, the point that this is still going on - today - in the 21st century, when those delivering the inappropriate comments should know better! I've been on the receiving end of the "Honey" label, and I've been in the receptionist's chair when the top sales' guy says, "Can you get me a cup of coffee/pick up my laundry/send my wife flowers." Today, I'm the CEO of a successful social media company - and  yet, I still feel marginalized by men I meet. And, honestly, by some women, too. It's as if the calendar is stuck in the 1970s - and women are still seen as "the little woman" (not really smart, but useful for menial tasks), or as Amazon warriors trying to emasculate men - in order to achieve equality. Business-woman

The trap that continues to catch too many people is that talking down to women colleagues... and worse, talking down to women customers, puts them at an advantage, and a big hole you cannot dig yourself out of. Just because she's a woman doesn't mean she's uninformed about financial services, or cars, or technology. And, if she is - don't grin at her and make insider her expense. Educate her.

If you aren't paying attention, let me remind you that women business owners are eager to adopt new technology, they are prepared to take financial risks, and they offer flexible work hours to their employees. Women value relationships above competitveness, but do not doubt that they also understand and embrace the goal of having a profit at the end of the year. The means of creating that profit is in their approach - not to step on others, but to build communities where each person is valued for his or her talent.

When banks and technology companies and car dealers and financial services reps and salespeople and business writers and --- on and on -- talk to and about women as if they are not only uninformed, but unintelligent, it says a great deal to those women being talked down to. It says, "Quite obviously, you do not want to do business with me."

Understand this - women of all ages are forming alliances and relationships via Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and more - because these are "social" tools...and being social is one big strength for women. Social, in this context does not mean gathering for pastries in a coffee klatch. It means social as in - working together, talking together, planning together, and solving problems together. Since one of the biggest problems we have had to date is the problem of not being taken seriously - we've gone social to the point of cutting out the middleman in favor of adding a woman in his place.

These are our professional "girl" friends. The ones intent upon our success, as much as we are intent upon theirs. And, surprisingly, these girl friends might be stay at home Moms, or entrepreneurs launching new ventures. They might be bankers or lawyers or women into crafts and jewelry; they might sell Mary Kay or homemade baked goods or children's toys. They might be scientists or car dealers or financial planners.

And, they might be the woman sitting next to you on a plane - reading a torrid romance novel, dressed in comfortable sweats, and tennis sneakers.

Beware what you say to those women. They are very much like Susan Boyle - powerful, talented, focused, and not willing to change to fit YOUR vision of who they should be.


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Sally Strebel

Great post. There are so many thoughts that are running through my head regarding inequalities. My biggest pet peeve is when I go to buy something and the sales man only talks to my husband. What gives? If most households have dual income, shouldn't we get some service?

Mary Schmidt

While I agree we still have problems and I've been faced with many of the comments/prejudices throughout my life - I also think we have to be very careful not to act/talk like victims.

That marginalizes us before the men ever do anything.

Lastly (and I know I'm going to take some grief for this one) - we should lighten up a bit. We all screw up sometimes - and a compliment may be just that - a compliment.

Jessica Faye Carter

This is a fantastic post and so true! I do quite a bit of work on gender and cultural diversity and the challenges facing women of color along these lines are similar (and in some instances, exacerbated). Mostly because women of color are often viewed as sexually erotic and available.

And you're absolutely right about the need for women to have a group of professional women friends. I've recently started a social networking site specifically for women to connect around cultures, careers, and living. Not many socnets specifically for professional women.

The Suitespot -



Do you need that coffee right now, boss?



Oh Yvonne, have you hit a nerve with this entry. Thank you and my compliments!

The last time I tried the corporate world on for size, I interviewed with one senior VP who actually compared me to his blond wife while I was in the midst of providing a reply to a strategy question, and not in a good or professional way (and not complimentary to her, either). The only reason I didn't report him is one of my friends had arranged the interview and I wasn't about to jeopardize their position in order to call this person on the rug.

Being incredibly capable, professional, reliable, articulate, and able to deliver superior results had no affect on this fellow. He could only focus on the color of my hair and the version of my gender.

Interestingly, I found out a bit later that he retired. None to soon for others of my professional persuasion.

Kudos to you on your very well written commentary on this sadly still timely topic.

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