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Good news: I have just signed an important business deal and it should keep me going for a while, which is just great. My decision to leave the Corporate world was therefore the right one, at least for the next year or so. But everything wasn’t as straightforward as I initially thought. Whether you are in France or in the UK, some things never change: as a woman, especially in a male dominated environment, you are simply not taken seriously.
As you know, I had even considered having an experienced guy with me to make my business look more “normal” for future clients -they expect the boss to be a man, that’s just the way it is. I thought of my grandfather – he is 87 but looks easily 25 years younger, but the time of the signature of the deal was in the middle of his nap and, even well-briefed, my grandfather is a bit of a risky choice -he can’t stop talking about his life. And he doesn’t speak English or understand cultural differences.
It was too late to brief anyone anyway. As usual, I was in my own, on my way to my lawyer to sign this important contract. It didn’t go as well as I had planned. At least initially. My client was also there, with his lawyer, and wanted to change all the clauses we had already discussed and negotiated. Funnily, the first question they asked was: “Are you on your own?”. It must be difficult for them to accept to do business with a woman…life is full of challenges, I suppose…Tough.
I had thought this meeting was only going to be a formality, just to sign the last draft of the service agreement (my business is about Facility Management) and start some collaborative working. How wrong and naive of me. To make matters even worse, the babysitter was only staying until 6 pm and I needed to head back home really soon. French babysitters are not very flexible. I didn’t want to give in and had no time to re-enter into lengthy negotiations. I felt stuck. Emotions were running high as well behind my polite and composed face: why did I leave my boring but safe Corporate job again?
My client’s tactic was the usual one. All the good clauses were completely ignored, and they wanted to re-negotiate terms of payment, prices, etc…basically, his lawyer and him wanted to change the balance of the deal.
After 45 minutes discussing things that had already been discussed at least twice before, I decided to stop everything. I had to go home anyway -I wasn’t going to stay any longer for them, this wasn’t going anywhere. Other potential clients had also expressed an interest anyway. I told the other party that the deal was on the table here and now, as it was. Not a comma would be changed. They had until the end of the day to sign it or go back home without an agreement. In short, take it now or leave it. Then, I stood up and left my lawyer’s office. Everybody was stunned. That’s not something I usually do.
I received a phone call from my lawyer shortly afterwards. They had signed and paid the first term of payment. They even apologised the following day (they didn’t mean to upset me and thought that they could still negotiate…the usual excuses) and now we can work together without any problem. They feel that I am passionate about my business and they like it (I can also see that they believe I am a bit mad and they mustn’t upset me. They are a bit scared now, which is brilliant).
I can’t help thinking that they wanted to take advantage of me. They wouldn’t behave like this if I were a guy.
All those years, I tried to tone down what I felt. Now it seems that I need to do the opposite. Next time, I will not even spend 45 mins listening to them. Mental note to self: need to toughen up.
Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London
  • wow that is so good! I guess years in the corporate world have put you in good stead for this! well done x

  • Yay, good for you! Bravo for standing your ground and being so strong. The corporate world needs more tough yet human women I think. Claims of gender equality in the workplace are a joke – it’s so far from being achieved. Maybe it never will be. But as a woman it makes every debate won or point gained all that much more rewarding.

  • Well done!! Hope you wave at me as you splash me passing by in your Chelsea Tractor!!!

  • Congrats Muriel! Yes build that outer skin up and make it tough – but remember to remain you inside : ) I know you will.

  • Brava!! Congratulations on your deal and for standing up for yourself!

  • Good on you for sticking to your guns. But at least we know the truth…your tough exterior is home to a lovely soft kind heart. x

  • I completely understand! As a woman in the technology field I am surrounded by men. In fact several times I have gone to assist a client only to be told “Oh I am waiting for the IT Guy” I then have to say “I am the IT Guy” it sucks but sometimes it is funny to see the embarrassed look on their face. Good Luck with your business I hope you have much success!

  • Mental note to self…to toughen up? Or to listen more closely to what you feel and to act on that. To trust yourSelf, to honor yourSelf:) Always a pleasure, Muriel. SoO glad you got over this hurdle and once again, with your signature elegance.

  • Good for you!
    I agree about the whole man/woman thing (tried to comment the first time you posted), … here it’s the same and I’d like a male actor to pose as my boss also when doing things like hiring plumbers and getting work done on my car….
    good grief!

  • Congrats! Good for you! Proud of you 🙂

  • @WorkingLondonMummy – Well, I was trying too hard to tone down what i was in the Corporate world.

  • @AccidentalLondoner – Claims about gender equality in the workplace are a massive joke. And I don’t think that it will get netter any time soon. That said, having my own business has put me outside of my comfort zone. A good thing, I think…

  • @ DC – I will – but we have been lucky so far – no rain!

  • @ Janine – I will remain me. I feel like I am a bit over-sensitive. maybe that’s part of the journey of having your own business.

  • @Mdivani – Welcome! And thank you for your kind words. I can assure you that emotions were running really, really high. Not good.

  • @Lucylastica2- Thank you thank you…I think that I am a bit too sensitive actually. I don’t know why.

  • @Jennifer – being a woman in IT must be, well, interesting…I used to work on trains and Signalling, and I also had my fair share of silly jokes. I feel for you!

  • @ Brynne – Thanks. It was more difficult than I thought. I think that what I did was bold, not really elegant.

  • @ stacey – maybe we should start a business – male actors to help us being taken more seriously? Just a thought!

  • @Sam – thanks sam ! Good to hear from you. So, when do we get to see the Hollywood movie adaptation?

  • “Big virtual hug”!

    Just having left a corporate job recently, I know the pressure and challenge of working with men and how difficult it is for them to accept woman as a serious and dedicated worker! Wy…where did we woman go wrong? Don’t we give birth to them, raise them and make them the “man” they are… how do they think they are any better really!

    Also, good for you for standing up for what you really mean and intend! Good going lady! 🙂 We are very proud of you!