In my previous entry I related my first #MeToo experience. Next came the second in a continuation of a long line of such experiences. Until recently, I thought it was all my fault. I thought that I was the problem. But then, don’t we all?
1976: Determined to find a sales position and earn a good living for myself, I applied to every job in the want ads under sales. One in particular tweaked my interest. It was a blind ad with a PO mailbox address and I sat on it for several days wondering if it was real. I finally mailed my resume and cover letter.
Much to my surprise I received a phone call a few days later. The man on the call wanted to set up an appointment for an interview. I even bought a lovely beige suit – pants and jacket with a conservative blouse and a scarf in the neck. I really couldn’t afford it but I figured it was an investment for my future.
The interview opened with the male hiring manager saying to me that I was lucky to get the interview. He had been on his way to the airport when he impulsively asked his wife to stop by the mail box where the applications were sent. He picked up a handful and read them on the flight to Honolulu from the mainland.
My application was in the batch. He said if he had received it with the previous applications, he would have thrown it out. But he was flying and bored so he read it. He informed me my application was number 206 out of 206. I was lucky he called me, he reiterated.
I went through a grueling hour of why I wanted to sell, with details of my personal life that today would have been cause for a lawsuit. But this was 1976 – EEOC had not been enacted yet. With mixed emotions, I can say I got the job. He called the morning he was leaving the islands for home and offered me the position. Again, reiterating that I was lucky, he offered $750 per month with a quota and a possible bonus at year end if I achieved and exceeded the quota. I would have a company car and an expense account. He would send someone out to train me. The pay was iffy but I was thrilled for the chance to get into sales.
Long story short, I was given a different title than the men who held the exact same job and half their base pay. They got commissions on their sales as well, but I did not – I was “bonused”.
They sent out a married man in his late 50s who was notably religious in his attitudes because they wanted to be sure he would not be “seduced” by an attractive, late 20s, single female. He learned I was serious about my job, not just there to find a husband. He acknowledged I was comparatively underpaid and discriminated against. Welcome to the all male world of sales.
The most amazing thing was the company was International Playtex. I was selling bras and girdles to women buyers in department stores. These men thought a woman buyer would like their flirtations enough to buy the product. The men had “merchandisers” (female) who did the actual stocking and repairing of the product presentation. I was called a “merchandiser” and as such, sold the product and did the stocking and product presentation.
There were trips to Los Angeles every six weeks for training in the next promotional layout. These would have me fly to LA on Thursday, have an evening sales presentation dinner, a full day of training on Friday and fly back to Honolulu on Friday night. Grueling. The men there resented me. One went so far as to tell me at lunch I should be ashamed of myself for taking away a “man’s job” and that I needed to go home and be bare-foot and pregnant in the kitchen. I told him (with cupped hands around my mouth) to “fuck off”. He overturned his chair to leave the table in a huff. Several men read my lips and congratulated me on my tolerance to the jibs.
Several months later, in Honolulu, my boss was going over my numbers with me. We were seated at a table at a lanai bar. A man walked past us. I was intent on my report so did not notice anything but the numbers and report. My boss then said to me “Did you see how that guy looked at you? He must like women with fat legs.” I was shocked and hurt. I never forgot that comment.
Sales is not just skill in closing. It is also who you know and who they can introduce you to. Before I left that job, I closed sales in stores that no male counterpart had been able to crack. My predecessor had climbed the corporate ladder by overstocking a primary customer and managing to get promoted for his great numbers, leaving the mess for me to sort out, taking the hit on my quota and bonus numbers. Right after I closed those large sales, and before the inventory arrived, I found a job at twice the pay and no where near the harassment factor.
I got to tell my boss he had some good news and some bad news. The bad news was I had opened several new customers with large inventory sales. I suggested the good news was he could transfer my predecessor back out to handle the stocking and maintenance of the orders because I had a new job starting in a couple of weeks. It was worth it to hear him stutter. I was an angry young woman.
The third in a long line of discrimination, harassment and sexual innuendo came with yet another job, #MeToo is always in the work force.
Share your story in the comments section below. #MeToo is all of us.