Wednesday, April 15, 2015
dennis: SERVING MS. BROWN
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