Conferences set in Vegas aren’t all business. Anyone attending an accounting event out in Sin City can attest to seeing someone slip away from a session to ogle the never-ending entertainment easing out of all corners of The Strip. If they are hoping to network after hours, one of the ways to pin people down is to purchase them tickets to Cirque Du Soleil or a music concert. There’s nothing atypical about that. Business events in other cities across the nation have golf outings, and private comedy shows for registered guests to keep them interacting beyond the minimum CPE credit hours required. But there’s a point where perks blur the line between business and pleasure and create potentially uncomfortable scenarios. Several women—and interestingly enough, men—shared stories with me while at the AICPA Tech show in Vegas last week about one or more trips out there with a mixed group of colleagues. Ultimately, the groups attended dinner after the day’s classroom learning and the women were left lingering while the men went off in search of bare essentials. The women mostly laughed at the absurd excuses their male associates would make, as if they were in some secret club speaking a foreign language the females couldn’t possibly decipher. One man I spoke to about the imbalance immediately denied that the situation could be uncomfortable. But then he recalled a time in which after dinner, the men started acting strange and claimed they had to “go see customers.” The women expressed interest in coming along, but the men insisted that there was limited space, so they could not attend. As the group exited the restaurant, the men came up to him and quietly inquired whether he wanted to join them. “I thought there was limited space,” he said suspiciously. “We’re going to a strip club,” they whispered. What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. That’s understood. What bothers me about this scenario is that the women—supposedly equal to the men—were left out. It attests to a topic that I’ve written about before in this column and in Accounting Technology magazine, that women in male-dominated industries such as accounting and software continue to struggle to fit into the Boys Network. (See “Climbing to the Top” and “ Women on Top? ” ) How do people get ahead? It’s who you know. It’s also who you spend time with outside the office setting. Some women have advocated learning to play golf to hang with the boys, but I doubt most of those women would advocate a coed excursion to Sapphire or Scores. I personally don’t think there’s anything wrong with a group of men—or women, for that matter—enjoying a little eye candy, even in mixed company with friends. But I’d sooner watch a dirty movie with my parents than be stuck in that situation with my male colleagues, and both sexes have admitted they would feel equally embarrassed. It doesn’t have to be a G-rated evening. Girls do wanna have fun, but perhaps it’s up to the men to ask the women in their firms what type of entertainment they are interested in and coming to a compromise that’s entertaining instead of awkward.
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