« Are $100 Laptops needed in Africa? | Main | Japanese video panty game »

December 07, 2005

how wives and girlfriends help corporate sexism

I was talking with an executive who joked about how his wife wouldn't let him go out for business dinners with a women. Something jabbed inside but i couldn't figure out how to respond to him and i found myself thinking about this off-hand remark for the rest of the night.

A lot of business happens outside of work - we all know that. One of the most common places is over dinner. Dinners where you meet with clients, colleagues, potential collaborators, etc. I've had more than my fair share of business dinners, and when it's just me and one male meeting, there are definitely issues to contend with. First, the wait staff and other patrons often perceive it as a date, like it or not. Business dinners are often jovial and intense, a constant flow of conversation. Without hearing the words, it's easy to perceive the animated conversation as a hetero date. Personally, i also have to do a reality check and make certain that i'm not kidding myself because even if i don't think it's a date, does he? ::sigh:: This questioning never comes into play when i have business dinners with female colleagues (even ones that i have crushes on). And i imagine the same is true for male-male dinners. And sure, group dinners make it a lot easier, but there are often situations where it's just two people who need to hash some things out. Yet, two opposite sexed people get read as a hetero date, like it or not, intention or not.

So it makes me wonder, how many male professionals ask out other males for dinner but don't ask out females for dinner because of appearances? Or because it would upset their wives/girlfriends? Does the same work for women (where they ask out other females but not males)? How much does the loosening of the location of work affect the sex divide?

Posted by zephoria at 07:01 PM | Permalink

Comments

heh. I don't know the answer to your question, but it reminds me of my early days on the Internets (tm), participating in discussion lists and the like. I would write someone offlist, just to say, "great post" or "cracking me up." Invariably, the guy would write back to say thanks and somewhere he'd fit in that he was married/had gf.

Erm. firstly, the assumption was that I was het. Then, the assumption that "I think you're funny" (or whatever) means I'm interested.

Personally, I've always assumed they felt guilty -- because as I also quickly learned, being an intelligent woman who stood up for herself often made you the object of fantasy and desire, even in cyberspace where they simply composed fantasies of what you must look or be like.

E.g., for no apparent reason, in those early days, hetmen would send me porn links offlist, certain I would be interested in the fact that a porn star also shared my name.

*rolls eyes*

The guy was joking about what his wife thought. It doesn't follow that his wife actually does this. Men may simply hold in their heads that their wives do feel this way and, thus, because their thoughts may roam, they feel guilty, hence the joke or the need to forestall anything that they perceive *might* happen.

I am not sure if that's making sense.

And, as for women? I can assure you that the wasband made it *really* damn clear he didn't like me socializing with anyone, business or not, academic or not. That's becasue I'm bi :) Everone was a threat. But, this was irrational stuff. He was also threatened by an 80 y.o. prof I TAd for.

Furtherest thing from my mind -- having an affair -- never understood who has time for that!?

Posted by: Bitch|Lab at Dec 7, 2005 9:10:21 PM

This is yet another reason that, for lesbians, being out at work can be an advantage. If your male colleagues know you're a lesbian, they won't think a business dinner is a date (unless they're of the really dense "maybe I can convert her or convince her to have a three-way" variety). If you get to know your colleague's wives, too (say, at holiday parties, or by chatting when they stop by the office), pretty soon they'll know you're not a threat, either. Of course, this doesn't help when you have a business dinner with a female colleague--but women in general seem less likely to assume a date in circumstances like that.

Of course, there are also reasons one may choose not to be out at work--but on the positive side, it may help male colleagues focus on you as a colleague, not merely as a potential bedpartner.

Posted by: Dana at Dec 8, 2005 12:12:21 AM

It might go both ways, ya know. I find myself avoiding one on one business contact with men and preferring to hang out with women - partly because I want my partner to be absolutely clear that I'm not flirting. (I think I feel this way because before I was with my partner, I *did* flirt and have affairs with colleagues, which in retrospect really wasn't that great an idea. But you know - they're interesting people...)

But you know, I've decided it's really not that bad a thing if this completely un-businesslike thing I do leads to my doing a better job at networking with women.

And there is a relief to being with women and having that confusion about flirting eliminated. I'm straight, presumably that makes a difference.

Posted by: Anonymous at Dec 8, 2005 2:48:54 AM

In industries where men have most of the power, any impediment to mentoring and forging business connections is a huge problem. I say go out to as mmany business dinners as possible with as many men as possible and normalize it for yourself and the men. Yes there will be occasional misunderstandings, but they will subside as business dinners between those of opposite genders become more common and more comfortable.

Posted by: Anon2 at Dec 8, 2005 10:20:07 AM

There is the added problem that in our loosely categorized world work/social tends to get a little blurry at least it does for me.

Some of my best first dates have started with collective meetings and ended with make-out sessions so how does that help/hinder the dynamic of business dinners.

I most enjoy doing business with people I find attractive and dynamic and want to be in some sort of social relation with- even if it isn't a date.

vice versa maybe I like dating people whos activities I find dynamic and attractive.

I dunno I guess that's totally unrelated if one doesn't find their friends in their professional field.

And yes, if i went to meet a client I didn't know socially for a project and afterwards they sent me flowers I would probably feel a little - funny ick, not funny ha ha so who knows maybe I have just been lucky with all my business dinners so far.

Posted by: mir at Dec 8, 2005 2:35:26 PM

"how many male professionals ask out other males for dinner but don't ask out females for dinner because of appearances? Or because it would upset their wives/girlfriends? "

Being a male let me try to take a bash at this ..

Persoanlly I never really thought about the sceanrio like the way it has been blogged. I just need to meet people who I need to to advocate and get work done with ..its just business.. !!

Have, I heard of Males taking advantage of a dinner to 'hit' on a female sure thing...same buisness house, different department , yup !! And, I have also heard about the full "disclouse" scenario where a male is dined out, just because the female wants to make the move !!

Big deal, thats life..it works both ways.. a lot of it is dependent on your personal intergrity.. never dip into company ink and /or .. whatever :)-

Posted by: /pd at Dec 8, 2005 2:35:43 PM

There is the added problem that in our loosely categorized world work/social tends to get a little blurry at least it does for me.

Some of my best first dates have started with collective meetings and ended with make-out sessions so how does that help/hinder the dynamic of business dinners.

I most enjoy doing business with people I find attractive and dynamic and want to be in some sort of social relation with- even if it isn't a date.

vice versa maybe I like dating people whos activities I find dynamic and attractive.

I dunno I guess that's totally unrelated if one doesn't find their friends in their professional field.

And yes, if i went to meet a client I didn't know socially for a project and afterwards they sent me flowers I would probably feel a little - funny ick, not funny ha ha so who knows maybe I have just been lucky with all my business dinners so far.

Posted by: mir at Dec 8, 2005 2:35:58 PM

I haven't seen this too much, but one incident stands out in my mind. I asked a male colleague out to lunch once and he almost fell out of his chair, literally. His eyes got big and he tensed up. You could tell he was completely freaked out at the idea of us going to lunch, even though we had a perfectly fine working relationship, and both of us were married. I couldn't figure out why, except for maybe he thought I was hitting on him. I've since noticed that he only goes to lunch in groups of (mostly) men. I did also have a female colleague ask me once if my husband was bothered by my friendship with a male colleague. I told her no, which was true, and she admitted to me that she dropped all her men friends when she got married because she was worried about what her husband would think.

Posted by: vdasher at Dec 8, 2005 3:17:43 PM

I guess my problem is I never quite got the whole idea of a "date" anyway; I suppose it places the mating ritual ahead of any other proximate goals, but that always struck me as strange. As did picking up people at bars, etc. I guess in that respect, all of my social relationships--business or not--were also potential "dates." (Past tense because I am in a monogomous marriage.) So yes, despite being a relatively enlightened person (maybe?), I probably considered lunches or dinners with my prefered gender to possibly lead to more. But that was true of people I interacted with at work proper and in other social venues as well. Sorry, just not something then or now that I could simply turn off. Nor would I want to.

For what it's worth, I've found it pretty common for wait staff to assume a date between two men having a business dinner as well. It may have a lot to do with the type of restaurant and the way people are dressed. If you are at an expense-account restaurant and dressed in business attire (whatever that is these days), I doubt the assumption will be made as regularly regardless of the sex of the dyad.

Posted by: Alex H. at Dec 12, 2005 2:24:06 PM

I've been a software developer for years, and during the go-go 90's, I had a couple of ideas for a software startup that my male friends were interested in, but each said that their wives would have a problem with them spending so much time with me to get it going. I was asked to stop calling one guy in the evenings (although all we talked about was business), because of his wife. I thought it was odd because I only called a few times trying to arrange things.

Unfortunately, all of the talent that I knew was male. I had a technical female friend who was not into the web languages who had babies at the time who could not get involved in a startup.

One of the wives of one of my best male tech friends had the MacBeth syndrome, where, she thought the guy should take my idea and start his own business. It never happened. I'm a go-getter. He was excellent in coding, but he didn't have the mojo, but his wife would not stand for him working with a woman. I had some success at my own small business, but I can't help but think, if I was a guy and this ambitious, I'd have my own company, or a company I sold at a profit by now.

Posted by: Mar at Dec 15, 2005 12:25:50 PM

I have to disagree with the first post about men feeling guilty about their own thoughts/fantasies and overcompensating as a result.

Men simply don't work that way -- such sexual thoughts are completely disassociated from our relationships and we would have to act on the thoughts before we would, in general, begin to feel guilt.

When men make a point of working in their wife/girlfriend, something I do frequently, it is specifically to set the record straight and settle intentions earlier rather than later.

As for work dinners: I'll also try to invite a third person. Even if the third person can't make it, knowing that they were invited makes it clear this wasn't intended to be a date.

I operate under the belief that this would puts the women I am inviting out more at ease -- knowing that they won't have to put up with my advances all through dinner.

Posted by: NotGuilty at Dec 21, 2005 1:13:28 PM