“Men Succeed More Ably in Business When Women are Involved”
It was a traditional event, conducted during the thick of an out-of-town trade show: dinner hosted by my magazine for a favored client. Our new publisher agreed to be present but obviously had done no homework.
It never occurred to him that to have the attention of a major advertiser—represented by senior executives and ad-agency reps—would provide an opportunity to make his magazine look good…or that having his magazine’s editorial director at the table would backstop him in providing convincing insights into his publication’s buoyant future.
Instead, we were as though marooned on a raft. My publisher had almost nothing to say, and his advertising-sales director was similarly mute. The clients’ guys talked to each other, barely acknowledging our generosity. Maybe this would be an early evening, after all, I thought.
Then someone told a joke, a pretty crude one. Then someone else tried to top him—more bawdy bathroom wit. We were being served an elaborate and beautifully prepared meal in a hotel dining room, but the talk at the table was quickly sinking to the lowest level of toilet humor.
How to stop it? The publisher, my boss, probably could have redirected the conversation and tried to elevate the tone, but he didn’t. I don’t know that he enjoyed what was being shared, but he did nothing to stop it. He even added to it, though not very deftly.
I looked around. There were a dozen of us seated at the table, enjoying our steaks and savoring our wine. We were strangers. Also, we were men, and for unfathomable reasons we seemed unable to relate to one another without resorting to sharing the foulest possible stories.
Why were we an all-male table? My magazine had mostly female readers, but in those years women still had low- to mid-level jobs, in both sales and editorial. The men who brought in the business did so not by stressing how valuable our magazine was but mostly by hustling their clients off to dark bars where they could drink themselves surly and watch near-naked pole dancers slither and shake.
When that ugly dinner finally ended, and all of us went our separate ways—I don’t think that “traditional” event ever occurred again—I replayed the evening in my head, desperate to discern how it had gone off track. Finally, it was my wife who nailed it. “That meal would have been different,” she believed, ” if even one woman had been seated at the table. Even if she had said very little, I feel certain that your dinner-table conversation would never have taken such a wretched dip.”
The truth is: men succeed more ably in business when women are involved. They help keep us honest, professional—and clean.
Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons