Women in the Boardroom: Handshake or Hug?

You just finished a meeting with a key business partner and chairs push back around the table as members of both companies begin to file out of the room. Goodbyes are being said and hands are being shook as small talk fills the air.

Did you see the game last night? What’s the weather supposed to be like this weekend? How’s your kids doing?

Sound like a typical meeting? That may not be the ending for everyone in the room.

shaking hands

Photo: Larimer County Workforce Center

As a twenty-something and now thirty-something woman, I’ve spent a lot of time in boardrooms with middle-aged white men. It’s a fact of life. I’ve ended many meetings with an extended hand and instead received a surprise hug or arm around my shoulders. On occasion, I’ve even had business associates briefly rub my back or shoulders. Strangely enough, they don’t offer this level of closeness to their male counterparts.

I’ll admit it: I didn’t grow up in a hugging family. We’re just not that kind of people. But is that level of contact really appropriate in a business setting?

Sometimes you become close friends with clients or business associates so a hug when you see them makes sense. But a new rep at a company that you don’t even know? A potential client that you’re meeting for the first time?

Sound Off

Have you encountered these situations?

Is a different level of contact between men and women expected in our society? Is it appropriate in business settings?

As a businesswoman, does this type of contact make you feel uncomfortable or undermined?

As a businessman, do you feel compelled to hug a female businesswoman instead of shake her hand?

Please share your thoughts!

I’d love to shake your hand-


p.s. I was inspired to blog on this subject and wrote most of the post at 2:30 am. Any fellow night owls out there?

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