The other day we were in a financial review meeting for my departments and the owner of my company was in the room. This man is one of the funniest and smartest men I know and he’s practically a pillar in the forklift industry. He’s also on the other side of 70 and you know what that means – his filter is practically nonexistent. We were discussing an opportunity to save some money in our Albuquerque branch when he pipes up “$1,000??? It used to only cost $300 to paint a forklift!!” I was feeling particularly snarky so I replied with “Well, a loaf of bread used to only cost 25 cents too, right?” He looked up, barely missed a beat and says “Yeah, and women didn’t used to work either!” The entire room was rolling.
See? I told you he was funny. He’s always coming out with something that has us cracking up. Like the time he said someone was so sneaky they could hide behind a corkscrew.
Let’s think about this – when it wasn’t normal for women to work. Especially in positions of leadership. As many industries have grown, their workforce has evolved to include women in all different sorts of roles. We have women in tech, politics, government, healthcare, education, hospitality, you name and we’re there. Even space. It’s sometimes hard to remember what women went through to earn their spot in their chosen field. Sometimes we even forget what we went through earlier in our careers and what it took for us to be where we are now.
I had a reminder the other day when I received a message on LinkedIn from a young woman at another dealer asking me for some assistance. She was new to a sales role where she was interacting with customers both over the phone and in person in efforts to sell them lift trucks. She experienced customers (who were men) asking to speak to another man, pretending they never spoke to her and basically not taking her seriously no matter how hard she tried. She brought these experiences up in one of her meetings with her director and he suggested she contact me to see how I handled it because he thought I did very well for myself.
Let’s stop right there for a sec – talk about a compliment! This is a man I’ve met on a few occasions and I don’t really remember having that many meaningful conversations with him. Obviously he noticed something and saw that I knew my stuff. Lesson here ladies – don’t be afraid to speak up in rooms full of men and say your part. You’ve been there. You experienced many of the same things they have. You know your stuff and you’re smart – don’t hide from it.
Now, let’s get back to the young lady. She and I scheduled a call a few days later and I asked her to tell me her background and what she was experiencing. She laid it out for me and I was able to give her some advice. Oh, did I mention she’s at the Canadian dealer? Chick used to play Co-Ed hockey. So naturally, I advised her to cross-check the next dude that discredited her. Lol! Actually, we talked about her hockey experience and we were able to come up with a few good ideas using hockey terms and concepts. Pretty cool, huh?
All in all, I had a blast talking to her and hearing about what she was dealing with. We talked about some things she could do to increase her forklift education and some tips on speaking to customers. It’s unfortunately going to take some time and experience, but she’ll get there.
The best part of this experience is that she taught me a few things. Reminded me that people see what they want to see sometimes. That we need to rise above and show what we know. That it’s all in the delivery and having the wherewithal to speak confidently about our products and their applications. It’s hard to remember where you came from and what the early lessons were when you’re going through a different level of experiences. But you know what? I think it’s important to take the time to reflect on them at times. To remember what it was like in our early years. To remember how far we’ve come and what we learned. And how it’s shaped us into the women we are today.
No matter what industry or profession you represent, there were a lot of roads on your journey to becoming who you are now. My sister had a heck of journey from tech school to fax machine support to ID card management to where she currently is on a team buying billion dollar companies. Some of my friends are social workers who fight hard for the rights of kids and families. Other friends have advanced in the realms of education and healthcare. Others find ways to juggle family life and work. Some have been down roads that led them to the mission field. Some are redefining their careers and going after more education. One lady in the industry just left a cushy job to start her own business that she’s been dreaming about for years. And it’s still in the industry so we can stay relevant.
I’m so proud to know so many awesome women who are kicking it everyday and doing a damn fine job of it. So if you’re juggling family with work or rocking it solo, keep growing, learning and being amazed at your accomplishments. I know I sure am!