You wouldn’t think that being a woman running a business, acting in a professional capacity, attending meetings, etc. would be an issue today. Yet, time and again, I hear the stories from women about the gender biases they still confront in the business world. Moreover, the issue is often compounded by age.
“Kiddo when you get older, you’ll understand how things really work.”
“Honey, have the mister of the business call me and he and I can talk.”
“Now I respect all you’ve accomplished building your business, but at your age shouldn’t you be thinking of the grandkids?”
These are just some of the things that have been said to educated, successful and competent women who are running profitable, growing businesses. What are these men thinking? Especially in these instances when these businesses are FOUNDED, OWNED and LED by these women.
Ageism, sexism and racial discrimination of all types unfortunately still exist, ironically on both sides of every situation. The old rail against the young, and the young are biased against the old. Men have biases against women, and women against men. We see white against black, black against white, hispanic against black, white and black against hispanic, hispanic against hispanic, and so on.
Some of it may be unintentional and purely ignorance of language and action. I know in the course of my career I can list numerous occasions of being called “honey.” Sometimes this meant nothing and was just the style and difference of a generation. When an executive called me and asked, “Honey, can you come down and explain all these financial numbers to me again?” he certainly wasn’t being derogatory or disrespectful. However, when another executive said, “Honey, I’ll tell you what to think.” Well, “Honey” explained how things worked, and that she wasn’t going to be sweet and take that kind of attitude.
Sometimes we get caught up in being offended when we can just as easily choose not to be. Other times we must stand up and choose to make a point of the situation and the actions and the words that we are encountering. We can choose not to do business with representatives of companies that are offensive. We can make sure the people who work with us and for us don’t perpetuate biases and stereotypes. We can be self-aware of our own actions and behaviors.
What we don’t need to do is become so entrenched in working with, and being surrounded by, only by people who are just like us, who look like us and think like us. We must at least be able to hear the perspectives of others. Giving basic courtesy to others is simple. You do not have to accept their beliefs, or even necessarily respect those beliefs. But you do need to behave professionally and not be a patronizing jackass, uh … honey.