I had my share of experiences and fun being a saleswoman at the beginning of my career in Sales and Marketing. The day I got featured in my company newsletter (with my first employer) as the top sales achievers, I was on Cloud 9. Moments later someone read the news, smirked and said “Aah, you can get that easily, you are a woman”.
Those words kept ringing into my ears until I realised that the comment was coated with sarcasm and slander. My achievement was questioned because I am a WOMAN. I do not have extreme views on Gender Equality but I do believe that there are several members in the society who still have limited and biased views on what women can and what they cannot. I do not bother about people’s opinion much, but it does raise a heckle when someone thinks that just because I am a woman I have an easy way out with my work.
This article is not to debate over the subject of gender bias at work, but to share some specific experiences that a lot of women face especially if they are making a career in Sales.
The world is full of freaks and you never know when you will meet one. In our professional lives they could appear as bosses, customers, colleagues etc. Mine appeared in the form of few customers. The first case was that of a man who was the CEO of a company and had his office at one of the posh locals in Mumbai. When I was just half done with my product presentation he asked me to stop and commented about my appearance. I politely evaded the conversation and enquired if I can he would interested to know further details about our product. He immediately proposed that I should visit his home and conduct detailed discussion there. I sensed what he was up to and asked his permission to leave. I wrapped my stuff and hastened out of his office. I could hear his evil boisterous laugh as I paced towards the exit. My heart was in my mouth. Yes, I was scared.
I was a novice and did not know how to react to such situations. There were a couple more of such incidences which involved suggestive SMS and shady office spaces.
Many young women get scared and stay tight-lipped about such incidences. I did the same until I realised that I just need to take a few courageous steps to avoid living in guilt and misery for the rest of my life. This is what I did and it worked-First of all immediately report the incident to your manager. It is not a matter of shame. Remember, no one in this world has a right to exploit you! Open up the case and ask for help. I did the same and my manager took the right action. The customer was black listed. I was instructed that I have a right to walk out of a customer’s office without making that “much needed sale”, if I smell mischief.
Trust your sixth sense. I have read this several times and I firmly believe this too – women have a sixth sense about people, situations and most of the times we gauge it right. If you feel that there is something wrong with the entire set up or a person or a situation, listen to your conscience and act immediately. In Most of the cases you would love yourself later for taking that decision.
Most of us post facing acts of misconduct get angry, sad, depressed and never ever escalate the matter to our supervisors because we feel that this might bring bad name to us, destroy our career, raise eyebrows or make us become a topic of water cooler and pantry conversations. Stand for yourself and speak up for your dignity.
I was lucky that my organization had strong work ethics and so did my manager. He supported me. There are cases where such issues are suppressed and the victim is asked or forced to shut up.
My suggestion – leave the organization as soon as you can. If you are asked not to value yourself this means the company doesn’t respect you either. Come whatever may, you will never come in peace with a system nurturing such culture. Your success is a fruit of your hard work and not a gift showered free of charge, because you are the fairer sex.