I have always sought to be measured when I discuss what other people go through if I have not gone through it myself. (Notice I said I have sought to – I have fallen short many times and passed judgment when I should not have.) How can you really know what you would do in a situation you have not encountered? The fact is, you don’t.

I see lots of judgment passed on people who are grieving the loss of loved ones. Since every person is different, every person will grieve differently – outward displays, mental / emotional affects, time in solitude, etc. Everyone has an idea of what they will do when they lose a spouse, parent, sibling, child or extended family member they are especially close to. And when someone else experiences such a loss, if they don’t grieve in the way we expect to, we often criticize them, questioning their love for the lost one or not “moving on.” And we can be very cruel in our judgment, as if the grieving person needs that on top of the loss. We are especially judgmental and cruel if it’s a loss that we have not encountered. And that is so wrong. For example, I have all 4 of my parents still loving. Yes, I said 4 – my parents divorced when I was young, and both remarried, so I say I have 4 parents. Therefore, I have no right to criticize the grief pattern of anyone who has experienced the death of a parent. I do have an idea of how I will react when I do experience this loss, but there’s no way I can say for sure. And for someone like my wife, who lost her father when she was 26, I can’t tell her what she should be doing or feeling 27 years later.

Why do I touch on this subject? I want to apply it to another situation I found myself in. There has been a lot of talk over the last few years about gender bias. President Obama signed an executive order to ban pay  discrepancies in the workplace based on gender. You have to wonder, why is government action needed for this? Why weren’t companies doing the right thing and paying everyone who has the same job the same money, regardless of gender? A number of people have said to me, “being a male, you can’t understand.” I’m willing to accept that, but when I see something wrong, I’m definitely going to protest it.

I managed to be the recipient of gender bias a few months back. In my 25 years in the corporate world as an administrative professional, I was always either the only male or a rarity in the office. In an issue of OfficePRO, the magazine of the International Association of Administrative Professionals (IAAP), there was an article about men in the administrative profession. It cites a Department of Labor study that found that 6.4% of people in this profession are male. That’s encouraging to me – it has been reported for a long time that 1% of admins are men, so the number is on the increase. Even so, I long ago made peace with the “female” perception of my work. I barely even notice when there are descriptions with feminine nouns or pronouns, like “the administrative professional serves as the gatekeeper for her executive.” I don’t care about words like “secretary” vs “administrative assistant.” I don’t care what you call me, as long as you pay me and respect me.

Prior to leaving my corporate job to start my own Virtual Assistant business, I had spent several months doing background work so I could get started quickly. The first thing I wanted was some high-quality coaching. I found some. The name of the program is withheld because I’m not interested in a fight; I just want to explain what happened and not burn any bridges.

This program has been in existence for many years, and has a good website with a whole book of frequently asked questions. I studied the site and read all the FAQs. I followed the program on social media and sent them a message expressing my interest in the program. They got back to me, and while they appreciated my interest, their program was for women only. This took me by surprise, and I asked for more information. I was directed to their website where I could find the reasoning. This seemed odd, because I had read every page of their website thoroughly, and while I had seen plenty of those feminine nouns and pronouns, I had not seen anything specifically restricting access to the program.

I was upset, and decided to wait a day to cool off before pursing it further. The next day, I went back to the website. Lo and behold, there was a new entry in the FAQs that explained that the program was only open to women. The explanation was written in upbeat, professional language, but it was painfully obvious what the true message was: “This is work for women. Men aren’t very good at it, and they aren’t nearly motivated or driven enough to make their own business out of it.” It turns out that this was just the beginning. In the short time I have had my VA business, I have crossed paths with more businesses and coaches that restrict their access to women only. Fortunately, there is no service or course I sought that had zero options for males, so I’ve been able to get what I need, but it has been surprising to see how many “no boys allowed” businesses there are.

With this VA training business and some others I have seen, there is definitely a need for some clearer messaging. If you have a business open only to a select group – only women, only millennials, only retirees, whatever the case may be – it needs to be made clear. It needs to be in your social media bio sections, on the front page of your website, in the summary of services on correspondence, etc., not somewhere in the middle of a 4-page FAQ document. You notice just about every blog post I write says I offer content writing and other services and you should click the contact us button and reach out to me to see how I can help you. And right there at the top of the front page of my website it says, “Virtual Assistant.” So if someone comes across my site that is looking for someone to come into their office to work, you know as soon as you land on my site that this isn’t a match, because I’m not going into anyone’s office to work. Kinda takes the “Virtual” out of “Virtual Assistant,” does it not? 

Whenever you desire to sell a product or service, clear messaging is important. Not only does it save time you lose by having to re-communicate, it cuts down on frustration.

If you need help delivering your message, you can hire a… oh wait, I did that already. 🙂

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