I have long been an advocate for more women in business and I will continue to be so. I strongly believe that we need their entrepreneurial ideas coupled with their organisational skills and multiprogramming capabilities in today’s fast moving world. The traditional male dominated business model is often too cumbersome and rigid to adapt to today’s fast changing world.
However, I have a word of warning to those women that decide to enter into the business world. If you wish to do so you should play to the strengths of women and stop trying to emulate your stereotyped image of the male businessperson.
The reason I say this is that recently I started to doubt my faith in businesswomen. I had several instances where I received significantly poorer professional service from women than I would expect.
In one instance I travelled on a 250-mile flight and a two-day overnight stay to attend a business meeting requested by one member of a group of partners. This took considerable time out of my already busy schedule. The only person that didn’t deign to meet me was the person that requested the meeting.
On day one they were too busy to make the trip of a couple of miles in a taxi, on day two they couldn’t find a babysitter and on day three they were off on holiday!
A second incident happened when I was asked to attend a meeting with a woman who was a total stranger to me and who refused to give me a reason for the meeting. Despite my investigations on her yielding very little information other than that her business had no connection to mine, the Internet has virtually every piece of information available to her regarding my business skills. When I requested a justification for the meeting I was regarded as some sort of dog in a manger.
I was also recently asked at short notice to make a speech at an event. I dropped everything only to discover that I was expected to pay for the privilege of speaking and that the offer to help me if I needed it in the future resulted in a significant bill that was never mentioned up front.
None of this treatment would I expect come from professional males and I wondered why it was happening here. Was it because they thought this is the way men would handle it; was it because if I knew the reason for the meeting I might not go; was it because they thought I was a soft touch or did they have some other motive. What is significant is that all of these women had entered into male dominated professions rather than creating a new business for themselves.
All I can tell you is that, it has not damaged in any way, my belief in the power of women to create and run successful businesses, but I am now much more cautious of those that have entered the male dominated professions until they can demonstrate the same professionalism as those that they seek to compete with.
When I look at the successful business people I see creative people that act professionally and treat all of their business contacts, male or female, as equals who are genuine and honest unless they prove otherwise. They recognise the need for win-win situations in business and look for long-term business relationships based on mutual benefit and respect.
Those are the characteristics that make me want to work with someone regardless of their gender. To me, giving special treatment to one particular gender is an lack of respect to that gender as it implies that they could not survive on their own merits. I will continue to show respect regardless of gender and I trust that the same respect will be afforded me in future.