Part two of this three-part article examines more of the challenges facing female BSCs in the workplace.

2. Establishing business relationships with men in a male-dominated industry: Some women may not feel at ease smoking cigars or playing golf, but they can still find common ground and develop mutually beneficial business relationships with men.

“Sometimes as women or women CEOs we go into a room that may be all male and we second-guess ourselves,” says Jamie Van Vuren, CEO of Bee Line Support, Inc., Schaumburg, Illinois. “We may be more apologetic and less assertive than a man would be or think twice before we say something.”

Women often feel more confident interacting with men if they know their audience and come prepared.
“I keep three apps on my phone: current news, sports and local business news,” says Vaden. “Before I go to any male-dominated business meeting, I know I have to be well-versed in those three things. I don’t want to be viewed as an outsider because I don’t know what happened at the baseball game last night.”

Larklyn Milstein, president of American Empire Building Services, San Francisco, says she thrives on learning about new products and industry trends. And although the itinerary of events for hands-on training often centers on activities such as baseball games, she doesn’t let this deter her.

“I use those times to network alongside everyone else — even if the events are not always my thing,” she says. “Stay the course, adjust where you need to, and keep moving forward. The key to success is being comfortable with being a little bit uncomfortable.”

Milstein realizes some women may not feel at ease at every networking event, but she believes there is always an opportunity to find common ground participating with men. For her, partnering with male account managers for distributors and manufacturers on sales or service calls has made a significant difference in bridging the gender divide. The give and take during those calls earns her the respect of her male counterparts, she says.

3. Keeping emotions in check: Women, by nature, tend to be more capable of expressing emotion. They are also more inclined to be empathetic than men, which can help strengthen relationships with clients and staff.

“Women bring more of a relational component to a situation versus a transactional component,” says Miller.

Approaching the day-to-day operations of her business from a relational perspective helps Miller attract new business, since customers see that not everything is about dollars and cents, she says.

Indeed, being in touch with one’s feelings and being able to relate to another person on an emotional level can be a plus — provided women still make sound business decisions with their heads and not their hearts.

“Women are often born with that natural nurturing ability, and I believe that can be an advantage,” says Janelle Bruland, president and CEO, Management Services Northwest, Ferndale, Washington. “When you win people’s hearts and people see that you care deeply and authentically, they want to win for you. This creates loyalty among team members. Can that get us into trouble? At times, yes. It’s possible to care too deeply and allow that to sway you so you’re more focused on an individual than what’s best for the business.”

For women in leadership positions, finding a balance between leading their business with their hearts and leading with the heads can help them earn the respect of staff and peers. But that’s a difficult line for female business executives to toe and can often result in criticism, however unjust.

“Women in positions of power experience a lot of criticism,” says Kathleen Bands Schindler, vice president of My Cleaning Service, Baltimore. “If she’s too strongly opinionated she’s perceived negatively and isn’t respected. And if she’s too compassionate she’s perceived as weak. So you have to find that balance between being a strong leader, but at the same time having a compassionate, softer side.”

Schindler recalls crying in front of her employees during a particularly stressful situation in which her company stood to lose a lot of money. She admits she may have overreacted, but wearing her heart on her sleeve only strengthened her team.

“My employees saw how much I cared about our business, so I think it helped them to see that side of me — that I’m passionate about the company and the industry,” she says. “I think being honest and open with your team really helps to gain their respect.”

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The Five Top Challenges Facing Female Entrepreneurs
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Balancing Life And Work As A Woman Business Owner