The Rules of Gender Bending

I invited a male client out for a lunch to talk about business (I’m a woman) but the waiter gave him the bill, which he insisted on paying!!  What should I have done?

What a great lesson learned!  It’s still possible to do some damage control by sending an apology with your thank you note and if you can, provide a discount on his next order or send a gift on behalf of your company.

As far as what should have been done, well … if you waited until the bill came to worry about it, you were much too late.

We are all agreed that in principle, the fact that you are a woman has very little to do with business, correct?

In practice, however, you will find that some gentlemen will be tempted to exercise some degree of chivalry outside the office walls.  Because you are gracious, you will follow their lead and interpret their actions as a sign of respect, as was intended.

But when it comes down to it, you want to chair a business meeting with no awkward moments, right?  So, you might have to anticipate each possible scenario and come up with some workarounds to common gender-related hiccups.  The best plan of attack is to use the 6P rule: Prior Planning and Preparation Prevents Poor Performance.

To put your plan in motion, begin by choosing a venue at which the staff can be trusted to open doors and pour wine.  When on the telephone to book the table, mention that you are the host.  If the restaurant provides ‘ladies menus’ (without the prices), this would be the time to ask that your client be presented with one.  [We’ll campaign for a name change to ‘Guest menus’ some other time].  Don’t forget to specify that you wish to be given the bill.  If you can, it is ideal to leave your credit card with the Maître d’ so that you can avoid having the bill delivered directly to the table altogether.  I don’t need to point out that this technique is not to be used in a dive where the bored staff will be booking their next trip to the Seychelles with your card while you work your way through the cheese soufflé.

When it comes to seating, your client should be honoured with a view onto the dining room, facing the door, or on the banquette, back against a wall.  If you feel this configuration makes him uncomfortable then fall into step by switching back to ‘traditional’ seating arrangements. Don’t go so far as to pull out the chair for him but do point out what seat you would like him to occupy in your best Vannah White palm show.  I’m sure ‘palm show‘ is an expression.  It must be.

If there are any mishaps during the meal, it’s your job to handle them by dealing with the waiter: “My guest would like some more water please, and I would love some more bread.”  It’s very important to look as casual as possible when doing this and read the signs you get in return … you don’t want to appear bossy!  Some men will be flattered by the attention, others might be embarrassed. It’s your job to know which type of man you have before you.

As long as you have made all the arrangements beforehand, there is no reason that your meeting won’t run smoothly, providing the best possible environment to discuss all the advantages your company can offer your client.  Don’t underestimate the effect that this extra bit of legwork will have on your reputation — the fact that you have taken care of all the details will bear its fruits when you close the deal!


  1. Lol, it happens, in may case and with women who are apying for me they just take the bill and we may wven chastise the waiter gently. I am feminist and see women as equals, and mostly as better, harder working, twken advantage of and having to put up with both man childs and with pseudo macho jerks. I always stand up for just causes and i speak my mind.

    Everyone should and we would have a better, happier world.

  2. Love your insights Nathalie–very smart woman! I deal with this issue all the time as a female working in a man’s world. These suggestions will come in quite handy. thank you!

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