background: It’s 1979. I’m sharing an office, and a phone, with a co-worker. A vendor calls up for my office mate, Gary, who’s not in. I say that he’s not there, and ask if I can take a message. The caller asks where he is, and when he’ll be back. I say I don’t know (to both), but again offer to take a message. The caller says that I “should know where my boss is” and then leaves a message for Gary to call him back. As a woman, I’m sorta used to being considered the admin help rather than the engineering staff, so it’s no biggie for me. Gary, however, is incensed that “this jerk” assumed I was his admin (back then we called them ’secretaries’) and calls up the vendor, telling him [in no uncertain terms] that I am an engineer - just like him - and I deserve his respect - just like him. He then goes on to say that I got better grades than he did in college, and that I was probably a better engineer. He then “offers” to let the vendor speak to me to apologize - which of course the vendor does - profusely. I’m more amused than anything else by the whole exchange. As a woman, in the ’70’s workforce, it was not uncommon for folks to assume that I was in an engineering meeting to take notes, make coffee, etc. rather than to actively participate. I knew it would get easier, as more women entered the professional/scientific/engineering ranks - and it has. I’m rarely mistaken now.
Fast forward 30+ years later, to 2011: I get a phone call on my business phone. Because we have the phone roll over to the home phone after 5 pm, and this call is at 5:11 pm, my daughter answers the phone a split second before I do on a different extension. The caller asks for “Mr. McDonald”. [My husband, though part owner in my business, is not an active participant.] While my daughter is getting my husband on the phone, I (on another extension) ask what this is about. Just then, my husband answers the phone. I again say, ‘This is a business phone and Mr. McDonald is not a part of this firm; may I ask what this is about?” and the caller has the poor instincts, and the gall, to say, “I’m calling for Mr. McDonald - and you’re interrupting!” [You could almost hear him muttering something derogatory about the "Little Missy" interrupting him...]
at which point my husband states that “MRS. McDonald owns this company, you are calling on HER business line, and I suggest that you tell HER what this call is in reference to.” The caller half-heartedly apologizes and quickly hangs up. Now, we’ve got caller ID and are smart enough to use reverse lookup, so we know EXACTLY which company is hiring Neanderthals. We’re not stupid.
My message to the caller? Get into the 21st century, bucko. Women own companies. Women make decisions. We are NOT interrupting when we are inquiring about inbound sales calls - we are making decisions (including a decision to block any calls from your company). And the fact that you’re trying to sell us something? As Julia Roberts, in Pretty Woman, says to a sales clerk who originally refused to wait on her - “You work on commission, right? Big mistake. Big. HUGE.”