I sort of anticipated this would come up eventually.
It has definitely come up in the past; when I was running a catering hall, when I was designing culture-specific events; every time I organize a beauty industry event; when I work with (esp. older) Latino men. My sex has managed to come up, directly or indirectly, in some, subtle or not, way. Now, as a full-time entrepreneur and CEO, it feels like my womanness must be showing even more.
Even though I have dealt with… sexism? a lot in the past, the most recent instance got to me. When dealing with a venue promoter (for one of the most popular spots in Miami,) I felt like I got set back a hundred years.
You Need a Drink: If you know me, you know that I take my work very seriously. When I get into “work mode,” people know that I enter a state of business-Zen where all I see is problems to be solved, and from which I cannot be retrieved until the task is complete. Amidst this state, I’m not mean or anything, but very focused and therefore nothing outside the scope of my “biz-vis” (business-vision) is particularly humorous or worth discussing.
Anyway, biz-vis was in full throttle in Miami. This was a big job for me and I wasn’t about to start losing intensity now. I often hear remarks about my professional demeanor. Depending on who it’s from it can run the gamut in terms of offensiveness; Girl, loosen up! Uh oh, she’s in her mode ha ha. Make way for Boss lady. (Yeah, some people aren’t particularly clever.) Men are usually the culprits and in an effort not to add fuel to the fire, I tend to be friendly, light-hearted or otherwise unaffected.
Last weekend in Miami, the conversation when something like this:
(After a long session of back and forth questions, sarcasm and rejections) C-Luxe: Ok. So what should I tell my vendor to do? Man Promoter: Pauses. Laughs. Your vendor? Laughs. Do you drink? C-Luxe: Huh? What do you mean do I drink? Man Promoter: Do you drink? Cause we need to you loosen you up tonight. Gosh! Laughs C-Luxe: Subtle smile. I’m sure I’ll be ok. Do you know the answer to my question?
For some reason, this rubbed me in a particularly wrong way. Do I drink?! Really? If I were a man in front of you asking the same questions would you say that? Ugh! I don’t know if it was just the circumstances that got me wound up, (he was trying to undo a lot of planning I had prepared for an event that night,) but this guy’s condescending tone really got to me.
People who respond like this to me are usually intimidated by me. I made it a point a while back to do my best not to make anyone feel as if they should somehow be threatened by me. This time I think there were definitely some power struggles at play and it wasn’t until the owner of the record label I was working with entered the room, that Man Promoter’s words suggested this:
Man Promoter: You know I don’t mind working with you (referring to another person) but this one? (points to me,) I gotta get used to. Laughs C-Luxe: Smiles. Did you forget “this one’s” name that quickly? Record Label Owner: Oh yeah? How come? Man Promoter: Yeah. She, uh… she definitely keeps you on your toes. Laughs Record Label Owner: Laughs. Yeah. That’s a good thing.
This suggested to me that he was in fact intimidated (or maybe that is just what I want to believe) but I found it interesting that it was not until someone (a man) with more authority entered the scene that I received even the slightest indicator of positive reinforcement. He definitely didn’t have to say “she keeps you on your toes.” His choice of words was enough for me to smile, breath, and realize his sexist banter had nothing to do with me; someone new was on his turf, and she was asking too many questions.
Reflection: I guess I don’t have any tremendous insight on this one yet but I do know that the fact that I am a (young) woman will continue to come up. I don’t necessarily have a problem with that because I know that when people feel uncomfortable, nervous or anxious, they tend to cling to easy things to make them feel better; my age and sex are usually the go-to choices. I am learning that patience is going to be particularly integral to my success on this road.
This experience definitely made me want to seek other woman entrepreneurs, to get advice on ways to deal with these types of scenarios. I wonder how I could have handled the situation better. I wonder why the heck this guy got to me so badly when I don’t usually let these things bother me. I wonder how I can grow from this. It would also be nice to have someone to vent to, who gets it.
Btw, I got my way: Man Promoter ended up having a bigger bark than bite—or, as it were, no bite at all. Most of what he was trying to shoot down ended up happening because he is, in fact, only the promoter. Once I met the venue owner, manager and other really great staff members who didn’t think I needed a drink, everything happened the way it was supposed to.
Could this also have to do with the fact that I am a woman?
Perhaps- but hey, you win some, you lose some.