How many salesmen do you know who got golf club memberships to chum up to the right people? How many times have you heard of businessmen taking clients out for a night on the town and incorporating a gentleman's club as part of the entertainment? Eyebrows are rarely lifted at either of these scenarios, I find, because they're viewed as mere tactics to advance one's business interests. Let's drop the double standard.
If a woman gets a vendor to understand what she needs by being flirtatious rather than forceful or closes a deal because she knows how to make a client feel understood rather than defensive, that does not mean she is weak, trapped by the glass ceiling, or an inferior power broker.
As a business owner, I have both the duty and the responsibility to use every tool in my toolbox to get my business where it needs to be. The well-being of my employees and the health of my company depend on it. For this reason, it does not bother me in the least, nor does it harm my sense of feminism, to use my feminine wiles in any way I see fit. The operative phrase here is "how I see fit."
Just like a businessman who chooses to take up golf because he knows it will help him to network with important contacts, I choose not to abandon my feminine intrigue when I enter the workplace. It helps me attack my adversaries and convince my clients, and allows me to go further than men or women who choose not to use this strategy.
Let's be honest. In any interaction--business or otherwise--the people involved want to feel that they are connecting and strengthening a relationship. Seduction is always part of the interplay, and the sex of the parties involved makes no difference. Human nature is such that any time you add the possibility of the "chase"--and yes, I do mean that flirtatious kind of chase—the thrill is only heightened.
When you go to a store, if you are a man and have the choice of being waited on by an attractive woman, chances are you enjoy the experience more because of the flirtatious component. Women feel the same way. Why? Because flirting, for most of the world, is the same as caring. It's not that you expect anything to happen; you just feel better attended to.
The minute a transaction begins, the buyer and the seller are focused on enticing one another so they both walk away from the negotiation with what they need. Not only is it intelligent; it's enjoyable. Only in America have women long been told they needed to check their sexuality at the door. I choose to use it rather than live by someone else's set of rules.
Think of it in less gender-charged terms. If you have a meeting with a client you know is very conservative, would you show up in your wildest tie or your most outlandish dress? If you're in tune with your customer, you wouldn't. You would choose attire that conveyed that you understood your customer, that you shared his values--that he could place his trust in you. The same goes for the topics you choose to discuss and even the words you use. But no one would see your choice to play up or down aspects of your personality as a bow to stereotypes or a restriction on your personal liberty. Why is how a woman chooses to dress or laugh or interact in a business setting any different?
And as for unfairness--or the idea that using flirtation or femininity reinforces age-old stereotypes--please. Give me a break. Saying that is like saying rape victims asked for it. As a woman in the workplace, I am very much in control of my arsenal of skills--and whether I choose to negotiate with an iron hand or an inviting eye contact, no one is calling the shots but me.