• Kathie Scalf

Women at Work


Being a woman in the workforce is quite the experience regardless of what industry you’re in. One of my biggest pet peeves is people victimizing themselves and using their age/race/gender etc in order to explain away personal failures, but you’d truly have to be an idiot not to acknowledge that these biases definitely still exist. I’ve now spent 20 years of my life working, and in those 2 decades I’ve spent significant amounts of time in hospitality, sales and the automotive industry, and while those are all wildly different arenas they all share one common theme- they are male dominated industries. This factor can work both for and against women and I’ve experienced both personally, and my advice is to acknowledge it, embrace it and figure out how to make it work to your benefit instead of letting it become your demise.

First and foremost, let’s acknowledge the elephant in the room for women- a man’s attraction to the opposite sex sometimes makes them stupid. The key is to navigate that in a way that works to your benefit, setting hard boundaries for your personal comfort zone, and being confident enough to enforce them when push comes to shove. Let’s face it, being a woman can open doors that a man in the same role can never even get close enough to knock on. On the flip side of the coin however, once you get in that door, you must be twice as sharp as a man to be taken seriously; it’s the most frustrating double standard in existence.

In my personal experience, a man’s attraction has resulted in outrageous tips from a drunken guest as a server/bartender, it’s landed me meetings and displays with hard-to-get clients in sales, and it was a way to make leery guests feel more relaxed on the auto showroom floor. My personal comfort level for playing into that is pretty high-I have no problem flexing my ‘womanly wiles’ to get what I want. However, I know that many women are not content engaging that way and that’s perfectly ok! You can still accomplish anything you want with nothing more than a smile and strong work ethic. The reason I am so comfortable playing into my looks and ‘dumb blonde’ routine is because I am so confident in my brand knowledge and I have no problem letting someone know if they’re making me uncomfortable. Most times I believe women are taken advantage of due to their natural inclination to “not want to cause a scene.” Well, I’m here to tell you right now, if you express yourself from the start, it will not seem like you’re causing a scene to firmly and politely tell someone they’ve crossed a line. You also have to have common sense; don’t put yourself in compromising situations with anyone for any amount of money. I’ve been asked to attend ticketed events with buyers in the alcohol industry and I jump at the opportunity to rub elbows, make them laugh and hope they get tipsy enough to commit to a deal. But those occasions are not the time to indulge myself. I have a drink or two socially with plenty of water and help myself to food for a few hours, then I politely excuse myself with a yawn before the clock strikes an unreasonable hour. Above all, remaining in control is the biggest power move a woman can flex over a man; it trumps sexuality every single time- and it will always earn you respect.

At the end of the day, you have to actually know what you’re doing to play “job” in the boys club. It doesn’t matter what you look like or how many men want to take you out; if you actually are clueless you’re never going to get anywhere. For your own self-growth, learn as much as possible about everything. I’ve found in life I’ve gotten further knowing a little about a lot than a lot about a little. Open your mind to the unknown and set goals for increasing your knowledge on events both historical and current. Then become an expert in your field, regardless of whether you’re a janitor or a CEO. If your only job with your current employer is to scrub the toilets, you become the best damned toilet scrubber they’ve ever seen. Take pride in your job, show up on time with a positive attitude every day, look your supervisor in the eye and say hello with a confident smile until there’s no way they can’t notice your work ethic and promote you to something else. Once you recognize the value in yourself, it’s impossible for others to ignore it.

I’ve personally never felt more fulfilled and stimulated in my entire career than right now, but it’s because I’ve also never been more confident in myself as a woman. Those two things go hand-in-hand. Women are wildly powerful, but unfortunately many of us never step into that power. We cower behind a man because it’s easier or less scary than striking out on our own. While I don’t think there is anything at all wrong about being a man’s support in the home, you have to unlock all your potential to be a whole person. It’s great to be taken care of, but what’s even better is knowing you’ve got options and you’re not “stuck” anywhere. A man will respect a woman more, both in relationships and careers, if she doesn’t “need” him…in fact, it will make him need HER. Embrace your femininity and stop victimizing yourself with it. It’s your most powerful weapon, not your Achilles heel!