Fast Lane: “Open the kimono” and other phrases which should be banned in business

Fast Lane: “Open the kimono” and other phrases which should be banned in business

There’s not much entrepreneur Jodie Fox can’t do. 

Whether it’s co-founding successful online retailer Shoes of Prey, brokering a deal with David Jones or running between Bondi and Bronte wearing a pair of gladiator heels

But writing in today’s Australian Financial Review, Fox reveals the gender bias she has had to overcome as a female entrepreneur. 

One of the problems Fox highlights is the offensive phrases laden with sexual innuendo which Fox says are often used in business meetings.

Perhaps these are just words, but words reflect reality and according to Fox sexist language can have a real impact. 

She points the finger at “open the kimono” a phrase which is used to refer to revealing what is being planned or sharing secrets with an outside party.

The metaphor relies on the Western myth of the geisha: a subservient sex slave, who masks her physical attributes with a flowing kimono.

If you are the one female in a business meeting, using a phrase invoking geishas is bound to make you feel uncomfortable.

If you are a male it is not entirely clear what is being referred to.

Why not just say: “We’re going to share our plans with you”?

Clarity in business transactions has got to be a priority along with not offending half the population.   

But opening a kimono pales in comparison to an infamous tweet sent by startup incubator the York Butter Factory.

“Techs are the pussy of the start-up scene, fill the club with them and the business guys will follow. Got tech chops? @YorkButter wants you!”

York Butter Factory quickly apologised for its sexist language and denied the tweet reflected the incubator’s culture. 

Whether it’s a wayward tweet or an off-the-cuff comment, male and female entrepreneurs need to call out sexist (and ridiculous) language when they hear it.

It’s time to think outside the kimono.


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