I share with you extracts of an email conversation that I had with Kazeka. I am putting this out there so that we can share experiences and advice. We welcome your participation.
17 August 2015 – Email from Kazeka to Wendy
SUBJECT: BEING SEXUALISED AS A BUSINESS WOMAN
Ma Wendy, do women of your generation get sexualised as our generation of young women? I had a white female colleague who runs her own SMME almost in tears on how men dangle business and then want sex in return. I myself was almost raped in a similar situation where men want to meet us late in the evenings (sensing our ambitions and likely to decline) and then proposing sex. How does one navigate these issues? I have yet to hear women of your generation share their experiences, if any, and what advice would they give us. It is unbelievably prevalent. Add being single and unmarried and there are simply horror stories. How can we do business, have ambitions and realise them in such an environment where we as young women are caught in between wanting the bacon, men dangling it and wanting to maintain our integrity and dignity? My peers and I struggle with this one and would love to hear your views.
17 August 2015 – Email from Wendy to Kazeka
Thank you for your e-mail and your request.
I have heard that this is a prevalent challenge for women. Fortunately, I did not go through that myself. My clients were predominately white companies when I started my first business in 1992, and the first person that gave me business was a white woman. This is not to say that white men don’t dangle the fruit as you put it. I think it cuts across the racial board. However, from what I have heard from women all over the world, it would seem that this challenge is mainly coming from black men.
I have not personally dealt with black men who are notorious for this. The clients I have dealt with over the years were mainly Caucasian and I never encountered this challenge. What advice would I offer?
In any relationship we need to draw boundaries. This translates to the following:
- I would never meet someone on a business related matter outside working hours.
- Secondly, if they made an approach I would record the discussion and report them.
- Thirdly, I think women need to speak out about these issues and bring them into the light so that they lose their stronghold.
- Lastly, I would insist on meeting only at their office, not for lunch, dinner or a drink…it’s inappropriate.
In conclusion, we must make sure we do not compromise ourselves and our values to get business. It is no different to prostitution.
Forgive my frank response to your question.
18 August 2015 – Email from Kazeka to Wendy
Hello Ma Wendy,
I appreciate your frankness. Older women who have succeeded without compromising themselves need to start advising us strongly on this matter as it kills our esteem as young businesswoman. I have often been exposed this problem in my Times Media column and freelance writing but it still persists.
My own accomplished late mother was unable to advise me as she, like you, hardly experienced it. I like your boundaries of meeting them at their office (no lunch or dinner). Will execute that one!
It can be so hard though when they dangle business in front of you or when your business is experiencing a dip whilst keeping your ambition alive but I will keep this boundary in mind.
One more question, how does one report the issue when it is the President/CEO/Owner of the company whom you want business from (obviously having more money, reputation) and the buck ends with him? As a 30 year old and many ones younger, single businesswomen still trying to build their businesses up? And can I direct other young women to your site who experience the same problem?
Highly appreciate your honesty and your time.
26 August 2015 – Email from Wendy to Kazeka
Thanks again for continuing the discussion. Operate on the basis that a man will make an approach, and if he doesn’t, then that’s an honourable man to work with. So if you move on this basis, it means going to all meetings prepared for that possibility. You don’t need any high tech devices to record someone. Today’s smart phones can do the trick.
But look, it’s not all men who are vile like that, but its best to be equipped in case they are. I’m sure you are fully aware of the challenges in trying to prove wrong doing in a he-said she-said scenario.
Just yesterday, I accepted a bunch of Friend Requests on Facebook. Here are some of the messages I subsequently received and deleted. I also reported them to Facebook and I also Un-friended them. I draw the line! So remember too to always draw the line. Ensure the lines are crystal clear… not thin or grey.