WHO GOES TO SAUDI ARABIA – BILL OR JANE Two senior vice presidents, Robert Donner, VP of International Sales, and Jeanette Falcon, VP of Personnel, disagree on whom to send to Saudi Arabia to negotiate the sale of two major computer installations worth approximately $35 million. Colorado Computing Company (CCC) has an excellent product and enjoys a good reputation in the area. With effective negotiations they are certain they can make a profitable sale. There are two candidates for the job, Jane Adams and Bill Smith.
As soon as Jane heard about the possible sale in Saudi Arabia, she asked senior management to send her. Jane has an MBA in international business and six years’ experience with CCC, and she has negotiated two major sales to firms in Norway and Sweden. Bill Smith has been in the marketing/sales department with CCC for five years. He has an excellent reputation and he has a broad understanding of the product line, as does Jane. His only international experience was two years ago when he accompanied a senior executive to Japan to help negotiate a major sale.
Bill’s assistance was considered crucial in making the sale. Bill would be happy to go to Saudi Arabia but, if he isn’t sent, he won’t he upset. At this point, the two vice presidents are not certain who should represent CCC. The vice presidents agree that Jane has the most experience and that, in almost any other part of the world, they could send her as the chief negotiator. Even though Jane has always been a team player, both VPs agree that Jane could consider that management has a lack of confidence in her if she is not picked. The positions of the two VPs are:
Robert Donner: I feel this position must be given to Bill Smith. Although Jane, is more qualified in international business, I feel her gender could possibly affect the negotiations. This is the largest international sale we have ever negotiated and, according to our sources, we are the front-runners. We are confident that we will be awarded the contract with a competent and professional presentation. Bill, who may not have the experience that Jane has, will do a professional and competent presentation and he should bring home a signed contract.
I feel that Jane’s presence in negotiations will leave questionable impressions on our Arab counterparts. We know her work is excellent, but, because she is a woman, we are not sure she will be seen as a “heavy hitter” by the Saudis. I suggest we send Bill to Saudi Arabia and consider Jane for upcoming negotiations in countries more receptive to businesswomen. Jeanette Falcon: I believe the position should be awarded to the most capable person, who is Jane Adams.
It is true that women in Saudi Arabia are treated unequally, but this pertains to local women and not to foreigners working in Saudi Arabia. When working abroad, a woman is treated first as a business associate and then as a woman. I believe the Saudi government officials are professional enough not to discriminate against Jane. Studies have shown that women often have advantages over men in some situations: (1) Women tend to be more motivated than men. (2) Women are better able to draw a consensus among groups. 3) Many will consider a woman representing a company in a foreign assignment as outstanding since a company wouldn’t risk sending a woman if she wasn’t the best. Jeanette and Bill cannot agree so they have asked you, president of CCC, to make the choice. Questions 1. How valid are the two positions taken by Robert and Jeanette? 2. List the pros and cons for Bill going and for Jane going. 3. What is your decision? Why? Case material was developed by Robert Donziger, Jennifer Falconer, Grant Hickman, and penny Smith. .