Women in sales, have you heard about the hubbub going on at GitHub? It seems that engineer Julie Ann Horvath left the company because of allegations about gender-based harassment. There is a lot in the media to show that some unusual things did happen. In fact, the company president and co-founder, Tom Preston-Werner, stepped down. He was criticized that he had mishandled the situation up until Horvath resigned. I’ll bet at some point in your selling career, if you’re one of the many women in sales, you’ll be faced with some unusual situation that you need to address. Be careful.
The GitHub situation is a cautionary tale for you.
Stay out of husband-wife relationships. There were reports that the wife of the founder met with Horvath to discuss her power behind the scenes. How inappropriate is that? When I was a woman in sales in the oil business, I worked with male engineers. We worked from home offices. I covered 2 states and in my role as a sales engineer, various lubrication engineers supported my work. Imagine my surprise when I called and asked one of them to schedule meetings with me at my client to deliver service.
He later told me not to call him at home. His wife objected to calls by a female. I was new to the job and young. What could I do?
I called my boss. I asked him, “Tell me the best way to get engineering support for my accounts.” When he said, “Just call and schedule it.” Then I asked, “What’s the alternative if I can’t call?” This was before email. He was shocked when I casually mentioned, “Oh, Mr. X asked me not to call him at home. His wife doesn’t like it.” That resulted in a conversation between my boss and the other engineer. Yes, I know I could have experienced retaliation, but I figured if he has a wife who dominates him so much, that he wouldn’t attack me. Also, my sales numbers were good and I was highly thought of at work.
Ladies, don’t accept being marginalized when you have a job to do.
Don’t shoot yourself in the foot. So now back to GitHub. Horvath’s other complaint was that she didn’t like the way the male employees looked at women in the office when female employees were hula-hooping. Yes… hula hooping.
Do you wonder how that skill entered the job description for a software developer? I certainly do.
Ladies, it’s crazy for you to do activities like hula hooping ( I can’t believe I’m saying this to professionals) that demean you. I don’t care if the culture is laid back. Looking ridiculous in front of your coworkers is a terrible strategy for creating credibility at work. Remember, this includes how you dress. Perhaps a column, What’s With All the Boobs? will enlighten you.
I feel sorry for Ms. Horvath. It does seem that the culture at GitHub was testosterone laced. Women salespeople are not going to change the biology of men at work. Women do have to do what they can to stop unacceptable behavior at work and certainly not participate in the things that demean women and make it more difficult for them to be taken seriously.
Best wishes for your sales success!
Best@Selling works with sales teams to sell more and be more profitable.