Thursday, April 23, 2015
(dennis continues his narrative of what he calls a “composite day” working for his boss, Carol.—Mark Remond)
Arrive at office, check Carol’s email and respond where Her input is not specifically needed.
Clean the kitchenette, make coffee, unload the dishwasher, put away cups and saucers.
Set up cups, saucers, cream and sugar in the board room in anticipation of staff meeting this morning.
Get the mail, gathering that which specifically needs Her attention; take care of the rest.
Catch up on filing, then order office supplies.
Clean and polish the two pair of heels She keeps in the office; She broke a heel once so spare shoes are worthwhile insurance. i check that we have sundries, just in case – things like nail files, hand cream, a few pairs of earrings, pantyhose, and so on. Little things that She just might need.
In anticipation of an executive board meeting, check the board room, making sure the writing boards are cleaned and the AV is operational; for good measure i use the feather duster to make sure the room is in top shape for the seven demanding Women who will soon be gathering there; they accept nothing less than excellence!
Review my reports in preparation for the executive board meeting. Yes, I have operational responsibilities and participate in the meeting.
Go to the parking deck to meet and greet Carol. “Good morning, Ms. Brown,” i say as She points an authoritative finger and hands me Her keys. “Yes, Ma’am,” i respond, fully understanding that Her car needs fuel and a wash and that Her dry-cleaning needs to be tended to – my lunch time task.
i start to ask Her a question about my lunchtime chores, but She as no patience for questions. “Just do it, bitch,” She interjects, cutting me off. “Yes, Ma’am!” Enough said!
i locate Her heels in Her totebag and place them on the ground next to Her open door. She steps into the 3-inch taupe slingbacks, leaving me to tend to the low heels She just took off. Carol drives in low heels but wouldn’t think of wearing anything lower than a 3-inch heel for business. High heels equate to power, and Carol wants that power! i put Her low heel shoes into the tote, making a mental note to clean and shine them at some point during the day.
i put Her purse over my shoulder, Gather Her bags, and follow Her into the office, staying with Her but a step behind. The sound of Carol’s heels on the hard floor sets a cadence for the day’s business and announces that authority is approaching. Men gathered around a coffee machine scatter like flies. Two other men call out to Her, “Good morning, Ms. Brown!” She nods and smiles.
Two Women approach.“Good morning, Carol.” Smiling, Carol responds, “Good morning Leslie and Judy.” Both women are members of our leadership development program. Carol comments to me that She appreciated the respectful way She was greeted by the two men. “I’m glad you took care of that,” She says, referring to a few past situations where proper decorum wasn’t observed. “Yes, Ma’am,” i respond, adding that the expectation of proper respect for Women has been communicated companywide. Women, regardless of level or company service, are addressed as “Ma’am” and groups of Women as “Ladies.” This may sound trite, but in a company that was previously run by a good-old-boy network and that rarely promoted Women, even very qualified Women, culture change is difficult and we are in the midst of a lot of it.
Before arriving at Her office suite Carol stops to talk with two Women. i respectfully greet them – “Good morning, Ladies” – and then stay a respectful distance back while they complete their conversation. i continue to hold Carol’s purse and bags – putting them down would not be respectful. As the conversation continues, another Woman, one of our administrative assistants, walks down the hall with a mesmerizing cadence of high heels on the hard floors. She encounters one of our recently hired young men clearly anxious to help Her; he leaves with an armful of copying She needs done, leaving Her to do other tasks or simply to enjoy a cup of coffee. Culture change is working!
As we step into Carol’s office suite, i take Her jacket to hang, noting the need to steam it and decide to do so; i have a steamer and an iron in a back room and frequently freshen Her wardrobe. i inform Her just in case She looks for the jacket, but She has very little patience with me – “Just do it, bitch! Why do I have to be involved?” As i put Her tote away, i remember Her low heels and set them aside for a cleaning and polishing; again, i consider this as a part of my job and i have the necessary supplies. While Carol sits down to peruse Her paper, i serve coffee and put the board meeting agenda in front of Her. Then i hang up Her coat and put away Her totebag.
i manage Carol’s calls and appointments. When Her first call comes in, i answer and immediately deem it a low priority; it’s something i can handle myself or hand off but isn’t worthy of Carol’s attention. “i’m sorry but Ms. Brown is very busy right now, may i take a message?” i’ll tend to this issue later, but only because the caller was a Woman. Otherwise i wold have handed it off or ignored it. Responding to Female staff is a great way to break from the practices of the past and empower Women.
i greet the Women as they arrive for the executive board meeting – “Good morning, Ms. Jones!” Proper decorum is a must, and my preference is always to address Women formally, even though many of these Women allow me to use their first name. It’s a powerful group of Women, all company owners, and They deserve to be treated with special respect and deference. As each arrives i ask whether she’d like her usual beverage or something else. While we do serve the Women, tom and i are also board members, so we’re soon engaged in business conversations.
The board is assembled, and i greet them as a group – “Good morning Ladies, Carol will be in shortly. In the mean time may i refill your coffee cups?” Carol enters a few minutes later and the meeting begins.
(To be continued…)
Wednesday, April 15, 2015
i’m Carol’s chief of staff – or bitch, if you will – taking care of both complex business tasks as well as performing the menial and routine tasks that need doing but are far below any Woman’s doing, let alone a Woman of Carol’s stature. Carol joined the company when it was owned by a large conglomerate and run by the good old boys who, incidentally, both She and i, as militant Feminists, despised. Recognizing Her talent, i mentored Her and as She rose through the ranks to eventually become one of a group of Women who would buy the company, turning it into a Woman-owned and Woman-run business, i rose with Her, but as Her subordinate. My friend, tom, had a similar situation, and today we are the only two men in staff management although neither of us has the title of executive. Carol is building a Woman-run software powerhouse in an industry that is anything but.
My job is to do whatever She tells me to do and to do it efficiently and flawlessly, but for the most part i handle the daily routine without much supervision from Carol. Given their usual interface with me, most people see me as Carol’s administrative assistant, Her secretary, Her bimbo. And, yes, i do have all those roles but i do much more, most of it only seen by our executive staff. i have a routine of work that includes overseeing technology planning for our business, organizing and attending Her meetings, managing Her schedule, capturing meeting notes, overseeing Her new hire-and-mentoring programs for upwardly mobile Women in our company, and accompanying Her on out-of-town trips to check on our field offices.
And then there are all of the little things that Carol needs done. These tasks include making and serving coffee, keeping Her office clean, fueling and washing Her car, fetching Her dry cleaning, running errands, making sure fresh flowers are on Her desk, shopping, and even ironing whenever She needs an outfit touched up before a meeting or when we’re traveling.
When needed, i openly illustrate my deference to Her as an example of how staff should treat this powerful Woman – “Yes, Ma’am,” “Yes, Ms. Brown!” – and if staff doesn’t get the picture, i inform them very directly. i often serve as Carol’s escort at business functions, making sure She is always looked after and always informed. i know She needs to project confidence, power, and authority, and I am proud and privileged to help Her do exactly that. And i know She likes a differential male at Her side, taking orders, fulfilling requests, and keeping track of conversations and commitments; these functions are beneficial, of course, but so is my subtle show of deference, very important in a company that has a history of men-in-charge.
i arrange evenings out for Carol when we travel, providing dinners, entertainment, and diversions. i’ve been by Her side for years and know Her sizes, color and style preferences, favorite perfume, preferred wines and mixed drink, and the cuisines that please Her, and i know Her husband, family, women-friends, and boyfriends. i know Her plans, strategies, and tribulations; and i know when to loudly cheer Her and when to softly whisper in Her ear.
And then there are the times – few and far between – where i’ve taken a hit for Carol. On one occasion in our old male-run company, She made errors in a report and was taken to task by an overbearing male manager who was of the old school and didn’t want to see Carol make it. i stepped forward very publicly and took the blame, all of it – and the punishment – for the error. Carol appreciated what i did and that i did it in what was a male-run bastion of patriarchy; She knew that in doing so i endangered my own career . It was a demonstration of my loyalty to Her and one that i would repeat again if ever needed. Carol is one hell of a