“When I started my business in 2010, I soon noticed an interesting pattern: It was easy to get a first meeting with a potential client, but it was nearly impossible to get a second one,” Tracy Call writes at forbes.com. “Was it because I was young and inexperienced? No. I was in my early 30s. I had bought and sold media for a decade. And I had a roster of big national clients. Yet men in these new-business meetings didn’t give me their full attention or respect. Why?” Sexism! The answer: Rolex investment! Here’s how that went down . . .
For my next pitch meeting, I framed the watch with a three-quarter-sleeved jacket. And as soon as I entered the conference room, I saw it: The men looked at my watch, looked at me and their body language changed.
It was like no other meeting I’d ever experienced. No one looked at their phone. People hung on my every word. I got the second meeting, and I got the business.
Media Bridge is nearly 50 times bigger today, and this pattern repeats itself all the time.
Before a new-business meeting, my director of business development will text: “Don’t forget the Rolly!” The men in the meeting will glance at my wrist, then lean forward to hear me better or backward in that “you’re in” kind of way.
The title of Ms. Call’s article – I Wear A Rolex To Win Business, And I Refuse To Apologize For It – indicates a proactively confrontational attitude. The Founder and CEO of Media Bridge Advertising is daring readers to condemn her Rolex investment, her horological solution to the sexist “old boy treatment” she received prior to (since?) the #metoo movement. Which no man in his right mind would do, obviously.
Ms. Call has an answer to her assumed critics: she only wears her Rolex to get male attention/respect for her first meeting. “After that initial meeting, I never have to wear the watch again. It’s a passport that gets me over an invisible hurdle and allows me to be judged on performance.”
Notice Ms. Call says she never “has to” wear her Rolex (“a men’s version, because I felt the women’s models were too dainty”) to subsequent meetings. Not that she doesn’t wear her Rolex. There’s more hemming and hawing about the political correctness of her Rolex investment: “if we’re honest, we all judge people based on their hair, teeth and tats.”
Honestly? I thought that last one was going in a different direction. Anyway, you’d be forgiven for thinking Ms. Call wrote this “My Rolex saved my business!” article to jump to the front of the queue for a new Submariner. If so, once again, Ms Call is way ahead of you.
I’m not telling you to go out and buy a Rolex and all your problems will be solved. It’s really about finding the intersection between what holds symbolic value for your audience and what’s authentic to you. In my case, the men in a male-dominated industry see expensive watches as a seal of approval, and I like watches. Perfect.
Authenticity! Yes! That said, Ms. Call clearly believes a bit a fake authenticity goes a long way . . .
Now that some of my women employees are taking new-business meetings themselves, I loan my Rolex out to them. Why? Because the more women do this, the more likely they’ll end up sitting on the other sides of all those tables.
Bottom line: the ends justify the means. If a woman has to pander to men to get them not to pander to women, pander away! Which raises that second meeting question again: when should a woman stop wearing a Rolex to overcome sexism? As Ms. Call admits, “It’s complicated.” One thing’s simple enough: a Rolex investment remains a symbol of success.
On a woman exec’s wrist? For some of us, gulp, men, it’s a potential red flag: a symbol of insecurity (i.e., trying too hard to project success). Alternatively, it’s an ironic FU to the manly watch thing. Or a simple reflection of the exec’s taste. In fact, some of us judge a Rolex wearer by the content of their character, not by their gender or their choice of timepiece. Or on the timepiece, not the gender of the person wearing it. Something like that.