Gini Dietrich

Glass Ceilings for Women Entreprenuers

By: Gini Dietrich | August 13, 2009 | 
41

businessI have a story to tell you. I told Barry Moltz this story this morning and he said, “You should write about that.”

When I started Arment Dietrich nearly five years ago (coming up in April!), I would go to new business meetings and the men in the room would say, “If we work with you, when do we get to meet your husband?” At first I thought it was a social thing. How nice! They want to socialize with both of us.

Then the fateful day happened. I’ll never forget it. Two gentlemen came to our office (there were three of us at the time) and they had on very expensive suits. One of the men placed his Halliburton metal briefcase on the conference room table and said, “If we don’t meet your husband during this meeting, we’ll be working with another firm.”

I said, “I’m sorry, but why would meeting my husband have anything to do with our winning your business?”

He said, “Because he runs the business and we don’t do business with companies if we haven’t met the principals.”

Needless to say, they were escorted out because I was so livid that they actually thought a MAN ran my business!

As I told this story to the men in my life, my friend Mark Allan suggested we created a Remington Steele-like identity for a male business partner. Then my friend Harry Brumleve came up with a name – Charles Arment – and even wrote his bio, which we put on our Web site.

Charles gave me great business confidence and taught me how to negotiate. It was fun “kicking it upstairs” to get approval on what the prospective client was wanting or asking for more from a vendor. I didn’t have to be the bad guy.  Charles was the bad guy. But it also helped me gain more immediate respect because it was perceived a man was running the business.

Then Jeff Wuorio called to interview me about the perception of glass ceilings for women entrepreneurs and I told him the story of Charles. He was so fascinated, he wrote a story about it called “Four ways businesswomen can combat bias.”

When it was evident that Charles was like Remington Steele – made up – I got A LOT of flack. I heard how dishonest it was and that if I could lie about that, what else did I lie about in business. But do you know who made the most stink about it? WOMEN! Men thought it was funny (like I did). Women thought it was terrible and that I was doing a big disservice to the gender.

But in an effort to be completely transparent, we had some fun with it internally and held an obituary-writing contest. Charles died a couple of years ago, but my confidence in negotiations remained. I’ve not once since had anyone ask when they get to meet my husband. And it turns out, we do really good work so we don’t need a man at the top to help with perception issues.

So maybe Del Jones was right last week…behind every successful woman there is a man, even if he’s made up.

About Gini Dietrich


Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro.

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41 Comments on "Glass Ceilings for Women Entreprenuers"

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kevin
6 years 11 months ago

Men are idiots…present comment writer excluded, of course.

Paul Segreto
6 years 11 months ago

And I was hoping to have Charles on today’s radio show with you!

Charlotte Sherman
Charlotte Sherman
6 years 11 months ago

WOW, way to go! Wish I had been there when you escorted those guys off site : )

Kevin
6 years 11 months ago

On a more serious note (yes I have them once in a while), I applaud you for escorting those knuckleheads out the door and I also appreciate how you had some fun with make-believe Charles and the whole insane men-must-be-the-business-owner steryotype.

Tom Reaoch
6 years 11 months ago

On Monday I interviewed Claudia Pereira a marketing specialist for Latin America for an American French Company . She agrees, it is still a macho business world, any language, any place. You both have, what many males don´t, success! Smile and keep going.

Sarah Evans
6 years 11 months ago

Gini – It took guts to do what you did. I applaud you sticking to your guns and for trusting your instinct. You’re a brilliant public relations pro and people needed to see it. Thank you for sharing your story. Keep up the great work!

Lesley
6 years 11 months ago

This completely reminds me of the movie, The Associate with Whooppi Goldberg. If you haven’t seen it, go watch it!! You’ll love it 🙂

Angelica
Angelica
6 years 11 months ago

First of all, do we need to talk about your obsession with having a “name” for everything? The women that were angry about Charles were just jealous that you came up with a way to work around the men you escorted out. This just shows us your resourcefulness, creativity and imagination goes way deeper than I thought. Scary.

Teresa Basich
6 years 11 months ago
I have been curious about the name of your firm (obviously, I get the Dietrich part) for ages! Nice to know the back story. Having said that, I can’t believe the flack you received from women for doing what you had to do to make ends meet! Honestly, I’m not sure I would’ve had the guts to do it, but when your business and passion are on the line, you do what you have to, right? And, I imagine that it taught some people a lesson on how tough it *can* be for women to get to the top without… Read more »
Dave
6 years 11 months ago

Gini,

You are an absolute genius. What I love is not that you had to make up Charles because of some stupid glass ceiling, but that you had the creativity to do so, and then to kill him. That is both brilliant and hysterically funny! By the way, the only reason I would like to meet your husband is because he is married to you and therefore must be one heck of a man!

Dave Van de Walle
6 years 11 months ago

What cave did those guys come from, and have they gone back to it?

Ceilings shall continue to exist and need to continue to be shattered – I applaud you for having the courage to tell those goobers to go pound sand.

Rusty Speidel
6 years 11 months ago

holy crapoli! that is HILARIOUS. And yes, brilliant.

Sarah
Sarah
6 years 11 months ago

For someone to think that a man actually ran the business and that they just hadn’t seen him is crazy! Way to go for sticking with it!

Diane Stein
6 years 11 months ago

My partner and I, Karl Joseph Helms, laughed are butts off! Actually my partner is Karla Jo Helms but I thought I might just put a little spin on the name for kicks! You are a riot and an inspiration. Keep up the good work!

Sally O'Dowd
Sally O'Dowd
6 years 11 months ago

You are an inspiration to all business women. I just started my own PR/marketing consultancy and so far have not experienced sexism. But in past jobs, sure, it was there. Thank you for sharing your story and for reminding us that we need to be strong and resilient.

Barry Moltz
Barry Moltz
6 years 11 months ago

So glad you wrote this- so glad our conversation could be an inspiration!

Rieva Lesonsky
6 years 11 months ago

It was a creative solution for dealing with a problem that should not have existed in the 21st century. How sad you had to create Charles, but how brilliant it was to do so.

Patrick Fitzgerald
6 years 11 months ago

Before you showed the guys to the door you should have had a conference call with Charles; “Good morning angels….”

Vicki Kunkel
6 years 11 months ago
I had a similar experience when I first started my business. Every time I would go into a sales meeting with a prospect (mostly men), as soon as they found out I owned the business, they wanted nothing to do with me–or my company. I couldn’t get a dime’s worth of business! I finally thought, “Well, if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em”, so I hired a part time male salesperson. It was never STATED that he owned the business, but it was certainly IMPLIED in the sales calls. Business started rolling in. But here was the fun part: After… Read more »
Susan Mazza
6 years 11 months ago

Brilliant! Thanks for sharing your story.

Dovya
6 years 11 months ago

I’ll be quoting this story to others for a long long time.

cvharquail (cv harquail)
6 years 11 months ago

Reading @ginidietrich ‘s story re creating FAKE HUSBAND to legitimate her business http://spinsucks.com/spin/1433 http://bit.ly/YZct2

cvharquail (cv harquail)
6 years 11 months ago

Where organizational authenticity collides with the glass ceiling. http://spinsucks.com/spin/1433 You rock, @GiniDietrich

Lisa Gates
6 years 10 months ago

Okay, this is a poster child of a story. To be told to young girls and women for generations around the conference table fire. Funny thing is, if you look at from a yin/yang kinda perspective, you had to marshall your inner warrior, activate your will, all that lovely stuff, and integrate the best of both genders. And here you are today, fully you. We need it all. And we need to be seen and heard for who we are.

trackback

[…] written about Charles Arment, an imaginary partner we made up (a la Remington Steele) for those times when new business […]

Troy
5 years 10 months ago

HAHAHAHA oh my god, I just found this from your article about gender equality. If you weren’t my business hero before, you definitely are now! This is the greatest… wow. Just wow.

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[…] the underlying assumption that he must be the real business brain and the ultimate decision maker. Link to post // Posted in Leadership, Leading Change, Women in Leadership on January 27th, 2011 by Anne | […]

wdywft
wdywft
5 years 6 months ago

Awesome story!

faybiz
5 years 3 months ago

Seriously, write a book

michaelgiese
michaelgiese
5 years 3 months ago

When do we get to read his Obituary?

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[…] The men who came into our office insisting they wouldn’t do business with us without meeting my husband […]

Ameena Falchetto (MummyinProvence)
Ameena Falchetto (MummyinProvence)
5 years 8 days ago
My reasons for digging this up will be made clear soon enough but WOW! I am in total awe at how you created Charles … I bet he was hot .. at least I hope so. It really sucks in business how you NEED a man to make yourself more credible – this was my life when I was in Dubai – I always had to “ask my boss” when I owned the company – I dragged John into meetings just to get the damn contract signed! It’s fascinating to see how this male domination was occurring in the US… Read more »
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[…] written about how I had to create a fake personality for Charles Arment, my “business partner,” who doesn’t exist, in oder to do […]

brookebeason
brookebeason
4 years 11 months ago

Fearless. This is why I respect you so much. Great post, Gini!

manamica
4 years 6 months ago

When I first read this I thought – “I hope things have changed since.” Today (Jan 20, 2012), a lead said to me, “can you bring in an older male client who can convince our owner, who is older, about this?” I said, “I am great at charming old men, better than an old male client could.” I suppose not much has changed…

ginidietrich
3 years 10 months ago

 @manamica OMG Mana. How did I miss this when you originally posted it? That pains me. I hope you did charm the old man.

trackback

[…] written about how I had to create a fake personality for Charles Arment, my "business partner," who doesn't exist, in order to do […]

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[…] written about how I had to create a fake personality for Charles Arment, my "business partner," who doesn't exist, in order to do […]

charlene
3 years 10 months ago

I love this. If only because I’ve found myself wanting to create a business partner persona to help me get in the door of some places. Yes, this happens. Attended a women’s business event this week and we discussed the gender issue – I brought to the table that we should be teaching women how to negotiate, to self-promote, to be confident…instead of ‘acting like a man’. 

ginidietrich
3 years 10 months ago

 @charlene Amen! We don’t have to act like men to be successful. Why can’t we just be us?

trackback

[…] written about how I had to create a fake personality for Charles Arment, my “business partner,” who doesn’t exist, in order to do […]

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