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You sell what?!?!!

What are you selling?

Each year, I go to a themed holiday party hosted by good friends of mine – it was "Christmas in Hawaii" this year! And each year, I get the chance to catch up with friends of my friends who I really only get to see at this party. My wife and I were speaking with one fabulous couple, Sue & John (not real names) we have met in past years … and the conversation got deep!

What do you do for a living?

I said, “John, what are you now doing for a living?”

John responded with, “Still doing Business Development & Marketing”. He proceeded to talk about an amazing history of helping companies achieve record sales growth. He prefers smaller companies where he can make a real difference.

So, I say, “That’s awesome, John! And, Sue, what do you do for a living?”

Sue responded with, “I sell Sex Toys!”

…. Ummm, you what????

Sue is a Sex Toy entrepreneur but started her career as a Health Sciences Educator. She helped create training curriculum for high schools and middle schools. When times got rough, she pivoted her career and started a product sales company selling, yes, Sex Toys.

Sue sells what?

With the words “Sex Toys”, a small crowd gathered around – because, let’s be honest, who wouldn’t want to hear this story?

Sue went on to explain that her target market are women between 25 & 65 years of age and hosting Sex Toy parties is her prime revenue stream. Her parties are typically women only but sometimes she’ll host one for couples. Her gross profit margins are outstanding and she controls expenses very well. She knows which products to market based on the customer she is targeting at any given time and she writes thought leadership articles using her background as a Health Sciences Educator. She regularly meets with the manufacturers to understand how they test (relax, allergy testing is critical for this industry) and discusses product roadmaps. Everyone in our small crowd was impressed hearing how Sue started a business selling something we don’t typically hear about in the context of business - and is quite successful at it!

Can there be a double standard?

A thought occurred to me.

So, I said, “Ok, everyone, shut up and close your eyes. Make believe it was John who started the Sex Toy business and just shared with us everything Sue said. What do you think now?”

Not surprising, both women and men started making “ummm” and “oooooohh” sounds.

Then one woman blurted, “That would make John a pervert!”

Everyone, and I mean everyone, agreed with the comment. It immediately changed us from being intrigued and thinking “how cool” to something like, "let's change the subject".

To recap the conversation, there was Sue, an entrepreneur with a successful business and then there was John, who, if in the same business, would be a pervert in many social circles? Sounds like a double standard to me.

Do you agree?

We can thank our biases for that double standard. What we have experienced growing up and what we see in the media all the time just adds fuel to our biases. Both Sue and John are educated professionals - but their gender impacts what we consider acceptable in all aspects of life, especially in business. The bias continues with a male nurse, or a stay at home dad, or a female stock trader on Wall Street.

This is the same bias that causes a different path of neurons to fire in our brains when we look at a resume and realize it’s a female vs a male applying to a job. Long before we have any clue if they are even qualified for the position. Doesn’t matter cause our bias paints the picture for us.

Get your bias off my career

When it comes to hiring, isn’t it time to stop painting pictures of people based on gender, ethnicity, age, gaps in experience, school, etc? Imagine a world where we don’t allow that picture (or bias to rear its head) of a candidate until after you know they are qualified for a position?

Why not hire the way the Philharmonic (and like organizations) hire: behind a curtain with no shoes (because the sound of a women’s heels can be detected)?

This is what we do at - we hire without bias. So, whether you are hiring that nurse or stock trader, you are finding the best qualified person for the job every time. No more double standards allowed. As for Sue vs. John selling Sex Toys, I’ll leave that for the consumers.

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