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Export Through a Gender Lens: Cultural Factors & Gender Bias

Manon Pilon’s distribution company Derme&Co. delivers high-quality cosmetic skin care products and equipment all over the world. For over two decades, Derme&Co. sources, develops, consults, and manufactures luxury products for the beauty, salon, spa, medical spa, and nail markets.  

Derme&Co. distributes to North America, Asia, Europe, and the Middle East with 50 per cent of the sales in the United States. Pilon travels six months of the year to develop relationships and meet with clients.  

“Visiting other countries can be intimidating, but if you learn the culture beforehand, you’ll feel more confident when networking and making deals,” says Pilon. “Sometimes if you do not prepare beforehand, you may make a mistake that will cost you a trade deal.”  

For example, Pilon was at a trade event in China and was networking with one of her competitors and a client. The client asked Pilon’s competitor for her business card, and she handed it to him with one hand. In the Chinese culture, it is disrespectful to give something with one hand. You have to take your two hands and give the business card to the client.  

“She unfortunately lost her contract because of that situation,” says Pilon. “To know how to interpret and respond to body language, how to dress, and the symbolism of certain colours can all mean different things in different cultures.” 

Pilon says this could all be intimidating at first, but the more research you do beforehand, the more you will know and the more comfortable you will feel.