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Opposing Opposites? Not Any More!

6 Feb, 2007 By: Ronelle Ingram imageSource

Opposing Opposites? Not Any More!

Regardless of the business environment today, be it management, service or
sales, to accomplish much in an organization, gender differences should not be
or become an issue. Getting a job done and doing it well is the bottom line. In
reality, men and women do differ in their styles, mannerisms and approaches.
They are different, but one sex is not always better or worse, good or bad,
especially if the results sought are effective. When the differences are
understood and acknowledged, and even appreciated, enlightened owners and
personnel realize that whether male or female, either staffer is capable of
building a strong work team or can lead a company if the talent is there to
begin with. Fortunately, gender stereotyping is becoming less frequent today,
and a variety of male-dominated industries are rethinking the value of ideas and
expertise that women bring to the table to share alongside their

Long gone are the days when customers ask to talk to the service manager then
express disbelief when they hear a female voice on the phone. In the past 20
years, most of America has accepted women and men in formerly nontraditional
roles.  From the beginning, I felt confident that as a female tech I could
utilize my good communication skills. A great tech needs to both speak and
listen to the client while showing empathy, offering suggestions to avoid future
problems with the equipment. These tasks are qualities researchers say most
females traditionally excel in, so it’s a good equalizer on the "playing field."

For years now, most key operators are women. As a female tech, together we’d
strive toward a common goal, knowing there is strength in a team approach to
productivity. Men understand bonding and the buddy system, and it’s ingrained in
women, too. If the key operator or contact person happened to be male, I might
adapt my approach but I was still a knowledgeable, professional, (female)
service manager, ready and able to repair the equipment in need. The following
are the traditional paths I’ve seen for women to become Service Managers:

1. A really good female field service tech is brought into the office
to work the help desk before being promoted. 

She is very effective with customers and troubleshooting.  As an in-house
tech she can interact with three to four times as many customers on the phone as
she can service out in the field. She also assists the current Service Manager
duties when he is on vacation, sick, training, etc. Before long, she
re-organizes dispatch, improves the work ethic in the shop and rewrites the
service agreements. She motivates others and is an enthusiastic leader. The
Service Manager is ready to retire and "Jane" is the natural choice to replace

2. Promotion from an effective dispatcher to service administrator,
and ultimately to the title of Service Manager.

This has been a common career advancement path for many female Service
Managers. Typically, what I’d hear from office equipment owners was, "Sue has
been with us for 5 years, and she’s well organized and understands our customers
and techs. She has helped train two different men previously hired to be Service
Manager. In each case they quit or were fired for being unreliable or
inefficient, rarely understanding the need for the Service Department to make a
profit. Finally, I realized Sue was the best qualified for the job."

3. A company needs an effective, proven manager who will shake up the
status quo.

This is where they will hire a college degreed, highly qualified professional
who just happens to be a woman. She will probably get paid a little more than
the going rate because this woman has been able to achieve an acknowledged level
of acceptance in a predominately male field. She is that smart and tenacious,
and is a highly sought after shining star with savvy negotiating skills.

Responsibilities of a Service Manager, Director or VP of Service include: 

•           Establishing budgets / cost control

•           Negotiating rates and fees with vendors and manufacturers

•           Following up on inventory control

•           Negotiating fair warranty return reimbursement

•           Dealing with customer relations disputes

•           Contracting for computers, vehicles, cell phones

•           Tracking expenses / creating profit

•           Dealing with upholding all state and federal labor issues

•           Interviewing, testing, hiring and training new employees

•           Implementing ongoing technical training

•           Integrating company’s sales staff needs

Over 50 percent of the American workforce is female. Interestingly, current
research shows that men working in the U.S. have a higher absentee rate than
women workers! So, any employer who fears the potential of future pregnancy
responsibilities and childcare issues should rethink their hiring criteria,
otherwise they are eliminating over half of America’s workforce.

Currently, the number of female attendees to my service seminars continues to
steadily increase.  They are bright, articulate and professional workers seeking
to accomplish the same goals as their male counterparts. I am pleased with the
continued growth of women joining the ranks of Service Technicians and Service
Managers, and hope C-level executives consider them first, and only, on their
work merits. Our business success should be determined by what we do, not what
we are.

Ronelle Ingram has more than 30 years of experience in the copier industry
and is currently the vice president of a service company in Irvine, California.
She can be contacted at 714.744.9032 or emailed at ronellei@msn.com.

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