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Published on June 18, 2007

Men-only events out of place nowadays



AKRON (June 18, 2007) — Tire Business did not attend a tire maker's recent tire introduction for dealers and trade press journalists, but not for the reason you might think.

Oh, we were invited and told the company's PR representative we would send one of our veteran reporters. The rep had her listed as “K. McCarron.”

But a week or so before the event took place the tire company discovered K. McCarron wasn't a man but a woman, Kathy McCarron.

And, we were told, no women were permitted to attend. Period.

Kathy heard the news from the PR person, who apologized all over the place but said the decision—a business decision, he called it—was made by somebody at the tire company.

The reasoning, he told me, is the company didn't want any “distractions” taking away from its meeting, which was to be held in Las Vegas. Imagine that: Vegas—the home of distractions.

If dealers brought their wives to a place like Las Vegas, he said, the wives presumably would want their husbands to skip the meeting and go sightseeing or gambling or whatever. And the company didn't want to take that chance, not even with the wives of the company's executives.

So therefore the rule: No women, even if that woman happened to be a professional reporter whose job it was to cover the meeting.

And, he stressed, this is not a “women issue.”

I assume the company didn't invite anyone to the event from female-owned or -operated tire dealerships, either.

How a company operating in the 21st century, especially a company that sells its products through retailers—some of which are owned or co-owned by women—can choose to exclude women from a business event is beyond me.

And to un-invite someone who already had accepted an invitation and had her travel plans made is even more puzzling.

Nor is this the first time this has happened.

Earlier this year, the same company invited Tire Business to another product launch in a remote part of the world. Again, the same PR rep strongly suggested this was a trip for males because the events planned and the harsh environment wouldn't suit women.

So the rep advised it would be better if we sent a male.

We did send a man, but not because of the rep's suggestion. Instead, we sent a male reporter because he was the only Tire Business staffer available.

(Ironically, we had sent a different woman reporter to the same part of the world on a tire introduction sponsored by another tire maker and she and other women on the trip were fine.)

That was the case for assigning Kathy to cover the recent dealer press event. She was the only reporter available.

I'm willing to give this company the benefit of the doubt that it just didn't think through these decisions very carefully. Sometimes things get in the way that can cloud judgment.

But I'm also willing to bet that this company wouldn't turn away any women customers wanting to buy its tires.

And there's the double standard.

If it's encouraged and perfectly acceptable for women to purchase a company's tires either as a tire dealer or customer at retail, then it should be OK for women to attend a meeting where these same tires are introduced and discussed. Period.

Mr. Zielasko is editor and VP/publisher of Tire Business.


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