Which one of those men is the boss?
If I had $1 for every time I have heard this I would be very wealthy. As a female managing director of a mechanical and auto electrical company I am often mistaken for ‘just the secretary’.
Reps from suppliers will enter our workshop and ask to speak to the owner. When I tell them they can speak to me I often hear “but I need to speak to the person who makes the decisions”. One of my all time favourites is “Oh, so you work for your husband”.
When informing them that I own the business and they must deal with me, many sales reps do not know how to respond. Some take it in their stride and apologise as they are not familiar with dealing with females in management positions within the automotive industry. Others stumble on their words, backpedal and lose the ability to carry about their business with a woman.
In this modern day we should not assume gender stereotypes in occupations. Women are working in many ‘non traditional’ roles. We have female CEO’s of banks and females in management positions in mining and construction companies. This list is endless and growing rapidly. To be fair, stereotypical occupational ignorance also happens to men in traditional women’s occupations e.g. nurses and child care workers.
So if you find yourself in this position what do you do?
My top 6 tips for surviving SOI (stereotypical occupational ignorance) are:
1. Stand your ground. Don’t flinch and don’t show any emotion about the comments. Let it roll like water off a duck’s back. Keep to the topic at hand and let your intelligence and knowledge shine through.
2. If you are still concerned that the other party may not be taking you seriously feel free to ask them if they have a problem working with a woman in a management role. If they are insecure about dealing with a woman it will not take long for it to become evident.
3. Dress the way you feel. If you feel good, make sure you look good. You do not need to dress like one of the boys to fit in. Some of my most productive days in the workshop have been wearing a killer pair of heels.
4. Learn to ‘Man Speak’. Even if you only know the name of the local football team, make sure you know a little ‘Man Speak”. This way you can converse on topics other than work when at corporate events and trade shows.
5. Go with your gut feeling. As Oprah once said – “doubt means don’t”. We should all listen to our inner voice and if you don’t think respect is the being shown to you back away from the conversation. Successful and profitable business relationships are formed on respect between both parties.
6. Above anything else. Believe in yourself and your abilities.
Jaclyn Bold is the Managing Director and Founder of MobiMech, a Female Friendly™ Accredited Mechanical and Auto Electrical Workshop. You can follow Jaclyn and MobiMech by signing up to their newsletter at or follow MobiMech on Facebook.