My husband and I are entrepreneurs. He writes code for a living and I sell any and everything. I’m not saying that to be funny. From essential oils to smutty books (and I think I just came up with an idea for a combo pack!), I am a basically an e-market queen. It is just remaining tomatoes and my portfolio will be complete!
Any entrepreneur will tell you that though this life is rewarding, this life is not for everyone. We live project to project, from one sale to the next. Entrepreneurship requires much mental dexterity (and a sprinkling of magic) in order to be successful. You have to be an actor, a counselor, an expert (or at least be able to BS the façade of expertise), a quick decision-maker, a pensive decision-maker, a soothsayer and a prophet in order to turn a profit. Oh, and a product – tangible or otherwise. This bizarre matrix of skills is why women – and a subset called ‘mompreneurs’ – make such good entrepreneurs. In common parlance, the endeavor is called a hustle.
There are no guarantees in the world of employment. 28 years at a “stable” company can suddenly cumulate in an unexpected lay off and a decimated 401K. Your job could be outsourced to China or Vietnam. Inflation could necessitate a cut in your salary and/or benefits. These are all very real possible perils when working in a structured (read: comfortable) corporate environment. Working for yourself is no less perilous, which is why entrepreneurs, more than anyone else live by this ONE code: Leave no money on the table.
You would think that other sole proprietors and small business owners would honor this code, this one rule that binds us all. But in a little country called Ghana, at the confluence of business and gender, protocol flies out of the window. Read the experience of Naa Oyoo Kumodzi in a recent interaction with a would be client.
Sounds crazy, right?
Like, could you ever see yourself negotiating salary – for instance – and having the HR rep or interviewer pause the interview and ask if they could get your husband on the phone.
“What? What for?”, you would certainly ask.
“To see if I could get him to talk to you about taking a smaller… more “reasonable” salary, of course!”, the rep says with a benevolent laugh.
Your next actions, up to and not excluding throwing his/her Stellar Award against the wall would be completely justified. Table flips are acceptable in this scenario.
There’s not a way that this interaction concludes peaceably; without someone’s feelings getting hurt. Oh, you’re gonna make a call alright, but it’s not to your husband. It’s gonna be to the EEOC and then there’ll be real hell to pay. Essentially, this is Naa’s potential client was asking her to do: voluntarily take a cut in salary after she’d determined her worth and set her prices.
Don’t get me wrong. There is nothing wrong with negotiating and bargaining for a better price. That’s the other paramount rule of entrepreneurship: Get as much as you can get for free and turn it into income/a profitable asset. But we aren’t talking about knocking off a couple of bucks on a service. We’re talking about erasing the service provider from the negotiating process merely because she is in possession of a vagina and therefore, limited capacity and wit and an excess of “difficulty” as a woman. A man would be better suited to negotiate with.
I relayed Naa’s story to my husband for a reaction. His reaction was, of course, to burst into hollow laughter.
“There are no bro code discounts in entrepreneurship,” he said flatly. “If that had happened in our house, I would’ve increased the asking price. You always sell yourself too short anyway.”
(I ignored the rebuke in his short tirade because it is true. I can’t resist giving something away, which violates another cardinal rule of entrepreneurship: Heaux! You ain’t arrived yet. You making Orpah money yet? Then you can’t be giving all your products away!)
As bizarre as all of this sounds, it should alarm you, yet certainly not surprise you, to know that men – and only men – are going out of their way to defend this wayward prospective client online. The circular reasoning ranges from “it’s just a part of our culture” to “he wasn’t being sexist, you are reading too much into what was said”. It is true that is a repugnant part of our corporate culture for men to dismiss women in powerful positions and bypass them in favor of interaction with another male, particularly in male dominated industries like tech, waste management and publishing, but I dispute that this is an acceptable part of Ghanaian culture…to sidestep a colleague in order to parlay with their husband/wife/father in matters of business as has been asserted.
I welcome anecdotal evidence to the contrary. A number of people have tried to spin this incident as consequence of traditional customs, and you know how disappointing it is whenever an African woman abandons her traditions.
Sir. Please. Sit down. We are talking about making money, not whether to salt your plantain with pink sea salt before or after frying.
In conclusion: Asking to speak to the husband of a female entrepreneur can only backfire on you. You know why? Because they share bills, that’s why. And if she can make more money it takes more pressure off of him and helps the entire household to prosper. Don’t do it. Whatever devil inspires you to make such a misstep much be exorcised immediately!
Have you had or known anyone to have a similar experience to Naa Oyoo Kumodzi’s? How did you handle it? And since it’s cuffing season and I mentioned that combo pack early on, you should really feel unashamed about picking up some lavender and lasciviousness. Check out these online bargains on both!