Betty Ann Image

Betty-Ann's Both Sides Blog

August 29, 2012

Taking Smart Risks

  1. Gender Physics
Taking Smart Risks Blog Thumbnail

Women are naturally more risk aware but to advance their careers they need to learn to take risks. First, they need to understand that there can be just as much danger in sitting still than there is in taking action. In fact, that can be the biggest risk of all.

I learned this at the age of twenty-one, when I accepted a position with the Labatt Brewing Company as their first female sales representative – not only in Saskatchewan but in the country.  The beer business was a man’s territory and I was delighted to be breaking new ground. Not surprisingly, my male colleagues were less than thrilled with the prospect of a woman appearing on their turf- and a young one at that. But it was with the arrival of the Eston Gopher Derby, my first major assignment, that these men made their opinions clear.

Although we were supposed to travel to the derby together, I nonetheless found myself abandoned in Saskatoon the morning of the event. I remember standing in my basement apartment in my blue company-issued shirt with an oval crest over my heart that said Labatt’s. I had on a white skirt and white tennis shoes. All dressed up for the big event I was excited to make a good impression and I anxiously waited for the sound of tires on the driveway signaling that my co-workers were there to pick me up.

The time on the clock ticked by- 9:00 the pickup time came and went- so did 9:10, then 9:20 and finally 9:30.  As each new number appeared on the clock my heart sunk further into my tennis shoes. I slowly came to the realization that rather than endure the apparent indignity of having a young female colleague in their presence, the men had hopped in their cars and left me behind. I felt humiliated and a deep shame crawled over my scalp and down my neck. A voice in my head questioned why I felt that I deserved to be there at all. It took all that I had not to go back to bed and curl up into a fetal position.


Newbie On Trial

It would have been easy enough to throw up my hands in defeat, but I had a mentor in my office- the guy who hired me- who stepped out onto a limb to give a young woman a chance and I didn’t want to disappoint him. He had risked his reputation for me and I wanted him to be proud that he had done so. Just thinking about his encouragement of me and remembering that he had warned me that these guys would try to stump me I formed an alternate plan.

Just as the clock struck 9:45 and it was clear that I had been left behind I climbed into my own car and high-tailed it to Eston, determined to make it there on my own. As it turns out, I didn’t need to hurry, as I beat my colleagues who had stopped along the way for refreshments. Upon arrival, I quickly set to work, taking on any task the harried local organizers threw my way. I flipped burgers and helped ready the gophers for their races. They were happy for my help; I was happy to open my brand of beer for them.

When my fellow representatives eventually did show up, they were surprised to find me well established with the Eston crowd, busily promoting our product with all my new friends. When they could see that I as accepted by their clients they were happy to claim me as one of their own.


Gender Physics to the Rescue!

After that rocky start the guys more readily included me and I owe this success to Gender Physics. As a young female this experience was an exercise in developing my Masculine Energy. I had to muster up courage, self-sufficiency, and independence to get in the car and drive to Eston on my own. Taking that action felt like a huge risk and was completely outside my comfort zone.

It may have felt easier and safer to curl up in bed and not leave the house as Feminine Energy is prone to stay put- it is the being energy. But the risk of not making an appearance was greater than rejection upon arrival. It would have shown me to be a quitter, someone with no guts for the business. I had to view the experience as a “hazing” similar to what men are exposed to when being initiated into sports teams.

Once arriving in Eston I exercised my Feminine Energy which made it easy for me to dig in and help serve the collective. Feminine energy will do for others more readily than it will do for itself so it is always good to have a mentor- someone that you don’t want to disappoint or you may throw in the towel too quickly. Taking a risk is Masculine Energy and you can learn to do it by using your natural Feminine Energy and do for others.

And finally, Masculine Energy is hierarchical. It bows to those who have the support of others. To find acceptance in a male dominated system you need to build your power base outside and they will see you as more valuable inside.

All these actions may feel risky but they bring results. Understanding and harnessing the dynamics of Masculine and Feminine Energy can engender Smart Risk. Can you see how you could use this on your career path?