*Sorry for the angry title.*
I haven’t blogged for a little while. I know I need to do it more, it’s good for the soul.
I’m using it today to rant. Properly RANT.
The story starts a couple of weeks ago. I walked past the service department at work and a lady was shouting at a service advisor. I don’t know the situation or why she was shouting but I knew the reason. She was lashing out because she was scared of the situation she was in. Unfamiliar territory, most women I know will openly admit they will send their husbands, Dad’s, or any man in their life to deal with their car rather than go and sort it themselves. Why is that? They don’t do that with any other part of their lives.
Fast forward a couple of days and I have attended a wonderful women’s networking event called Athena and I had been invited along to a ‘Networking Masterclass.’ We all went round the room to explain our businesses in a little more detail. I love these occasions as I get an insight into people’s business, their personal goals and a lot of the ladies around the room are inspiring entrepreneurs. When my turn came around, I explained the story of the shouting woman and I asked them why they don’t come into the showroom.
“You all drove here today, how many of you got your husbands to buy your car? How many of you got the men in your life to sort the servicing, MOT’s, blown tyres, etc? Why do you do that, even though, most of the time you know exactly what’s wrong, you know what to do and you know how much you want to pay?” I asked.
One woman opposite me put her face in her hands and said “I’ve done that. Exactly that, I don’t know why.”
I know why. The showroom. It’s a boys club.
Shortly after the women’s networking event I arranged a meeting with my boss to suggest some ideas I had about getting women into the showroom. Of course, I am pursuing my zero-emission agenda so I’d like more women to test drive the all-electric Nissan LEAF (hardly any do by the way- their husbands sort it for them). Together we came up with some great ideas which I have been looking into getting sorted as soon as possible.- I’m keeping tight lipped here until they are a great success!
All going well until, this morning, I was whacked with some incredible, casual, colleague-related sexism which has sent me into a unfathomable rage.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m used to jokes flying around the showroom about women, I’m used to customers saying things like ‘can you drive in those shoes?’ but my colleague crossed the line today, he leant on my desk and said “well, Therese must have some meetings with some men today, that’s quite a tight top.”
Sure, he’s probably making a joke at my expense to make all the other people (all men) in the room laugh. But for me it underlies my greatest fear, that men don’t take me seriously. Unfortunately for my colleague I let rip, I saw red and he apologised straight away. He’s been avoiding me since, muttering something about me doing a ‘Charlie’s Angels‘ on him.
The event has really upset me. I text my sister and she’s told me to make a joke out of but if I take these situations ‘as a joke’ all the time, how far does it go? I don’t make references about his figure. I don’t imply that the way he is clothed will determine who he is meeting. Most importantly, I do NOT dress for men. I dress smart to make myself feel and appear as professional as I feel on the inside. If I feel this way at work, a place I have chosen to come to, how do our female customers feel?
The car showroom needs to come out of the 1950’s.
So a full circle has happened. I’ve turned into the woman shouting in the showroom. I’m intimidated and irritated. Annoyingly, this just popped up on my Twitter timeline too.
What can I, and we, do about it?
All main brand car dealerships send every single member of staff on training days. Learn about the cars, learn about engines, learn about the brand, learn about closing the deal. Why don’t we learn about equality, gender bias, making everyone feel welcome in a strange environment?
If you’re thinking, who would want to teach them; I would. I can. I just did. I am fiercely passionate about bringing this industry into this century. I envisage a showroom where women can confidently speak about their car, and many do, but not enough. Women control 70-80% of purchasing decisions, and over the next decade they will control 2 thirds of consumer wealth. In my opinion, the automotive trade is not doing enough about this. In my last paid social media advert about the Nissan SUV range, more women than men clicked on the links.
I am a huge fan of Sheryl Sandberg‘s book, Lean In. Amongst a lot of other things, she says that we owe it to the women who have gone before us, who have fought for our rights, and we owe it to the women who still have no rights, in our country and others.
“When Gloria Steinem marched in the streets to fight for the opportunities that so many of us now take for granted, she quoted Susan B. Anthony, who marched in the streets before her and concluded, ‘Our job is not to make young women grateful. It is to make them ungrateful so they keep going.’ This sentiment remains true today. We need to be grateful for what we have but dissatisfied with the status quo. This dissatisfaction spurs the charge for change. We must keep going.”
To quote James Brown, again,
“This is a man’s world
But it would be nothing, nothing
Without a woman or a girl”