Sunday, October 21, 2012
NANCY & DENNIS: SERVING CAROL
Carol is the CEO and part owner of the privately held software company where I work. Carol is an assertive, driven feminist with a quick temper who has but one goal in life and that is to expand her business. Given my female-led lifestyle at home, Carol creates an environment I thrive in! Carol is younger than I am, and I mentored her when she joined our company out of college. Carol was promoted by our company's prior corporate owners and was in a position to become a shareholder when we were divested. Largely because of my “feminist credentials” and my willingness to take on a subordinate role to her, Carol took me with her as she climbed the corporate ladder; it has been a mutually beneficial and satisfying arrangement.
Carol is a driver behind the efforts we make to recruit, develop, and promote women. No matter the open position, she asks whether we have a woman who could fill it; usually we do since it's one of my jobs to see that we do and a job that I energetically pursue. Our company is always seeking to promote women since women are grossly underrepresented in technology fields.
Carol and I are friends but I recognize her authority and my subordination to her and the other board members. Our board is all-female with the exception for myself and another man, my friend, Tom. We are not officers of the company as are the women; rather, our roles are to support the officers and mentor and assist women who are nearing promotion.
In addition to my subordinate business roles, I make it a point to look after Carol, show her respect, and tend to her ongoing needs. I always show her deference no matter where our meeting is or who is in attendance; she will always get a “Yes, Ma’am” in response to a request, whether it's for some complex financial numbers or a cup of coffee. I make it a point to have a variety of coffees and teas available for Carol and the board members and serve them as needed.
When I first met Carol I called her by her first name, but as she moved up the ranks it was more appropriate that I address her more formally. I now address her as “Ma’am” or “Madame”; we are both comfortable with this. The manner in which I address her is a way of punctuating our relative roles, something that, as a strong woman and a submissive man, we are always wanting to do. I am always looking to take on more for her. I make copies, serve coffee, and tend to her dry cleaning, picking it up and delivering it once a week. I've done light housekeeping for her when her usual household help has been unavailable. I accompany her on trips where I'll do anything from help her with important presentations and client meetings to carry her bags, act as her chauffeur, run errands, and even sew a button on her jacket or iron a blouse. Her time is much too valuable to tend to trivial matters, so these fall to me. All said, work is an extension of my home life; the female-led lifestyle I have at home has prepared me for the subordinate role I have at my female-led company.