Dear Aunty B,
I am a successful entrepreneur, yet I am completely confused by the behaviour of older men.
If I walk through a door, they stand aside and let me go first. If they are buying me a drink – and many, Aunty B, still do – they take my order, pay and offer me the drink before others. In other words they treat me with deference and good manners.
However there are some situations where the good manners fly out the window.
If a group of men are standing in a circle and introductions are being made, I am often the last to be introduced. I am also often left out of the conversation as the men pair off to talk.
The other day I found myself sitting at a function completely ignored by a table of men as they gasbagged about god-knows-what, because I was completely excluded.
Can you explain what goes on in their heads? Is this bad manners, am I being snubbed, or are they just uncomfortable with women in business?
Are you kidding? Me? How would I know what goes on in their heads? But sister, I share your confusion. On the one hand these men of a certain age are standing up, offering you a seat as if you were an invalid, the next minute they are pumping your hand with a grip that sucks the blood from your fingers.
Look, I am afraid you are being snubbed. You have to realise it is still a boy’s club at the top of the food chain. When there are automatic prompts like “woman” and “door” they instinctively stand aside. But put them in a group with other primates and the social signals to the brain get completely scrambled.
They simply don’t see you in their quest to impress and ingratiate themselves with the most powerful man in the group.
The solution is simple. There is no use hanging around trying to get their attention. Walk off and join another group of younger men who (mostly) have a completely different attitude and see you as an individual, not an interloper.
And I have good news. That whole generation of men are soon going to retire to the golf course to continue their conversation. And I am quite sure we won’t give a toss about being excluded.
Your Aunty B.