Blog image

Blog image

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Girls Playing Business

When I started calling on corporate clients in the late 70's and early 80's, in some aspects, it was fun being a woman in a man's world - primarily automotive.  Few vendor contacts were women, fewer customer contacts were women so it was easy to capture attention.  In some cases, easier to get in the door but much harder to be taken seriously.

Back then, it really was the big boys club stereotype.  People still had 3-martini lunches.  Dinners, followed by a full night of drinking was routine.  As you might imagine, this was risky behavior for a female sales rep even if she wanted to participate in such activities.

I had one Distributor who was at times both a client and a competitor - we had a cordial relationship and would meet once every 6 months or so for lunch.  He was much older than me and I think saw himself as a sort of mentor (let's call him Morrie).  Morrie was doing tons of automotive business and had the whole entertainment thing down.  He had lots of fun stories that included drunken trips to exotic locations, suites at the Palace, tickets to any sporting event, and my personal favorite:  hookers.  This was his routine every Tuesday for one very large-volume client:  Morrie would check into a high-end hotel in downtown Birmingham and let the call girl into the room and pay her.  Morrie would sit in the lobby reading a newspaper with the key on the table next to him (that was back in the day when this hotel had actual room numbers on actual keys - not the electronic cards that are used today).  The client would walk through the lobby at noon, pick up the key and go up to the room.  Morrie would read the paper until the client came back down, left the key on the table and went on his way.  Words were rarely spoken.

Morrie cracked me up because he was quite self-righteous about this, explaining that this was an acceptable service to perform for a client, but he drew the line at drugs; he would NOT get drugs for a client.  I always left those lunches feeling like a little girl "playing" business - I would have no idea how to obtain a hooker for a client - and no guarantee as to how I might react to being asked for one!  I decided to believe that I must have looked like the type of vendor that had no triple-secret hooker connections.  (I could live with that!)

As companies began to be sued for sexual harassment, more women entered the workforce at upper levels and companies began to crack down on what were considered reimbursable expenses, this behavior eventually diminished.  A few male colleagues were actually relieved - they never enjoyed this activity but it was the way that business was done.  My first boss in the industry who was best described as a "gentleman"  said he never felt sleazier than he did walking out of an adult movie theatre at 2:00 on a sunny weekday  afternoon.

The economy played a part as well as business got tough and people had to actually perform their job responsibilities and didn't have all afternoon to hang out in strip clubs - but I'm giving the majority of the credit to the entrance of more women into the workforce who brought a culture of civility with them!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Got a story of your own for me? I'd love to tell it!