Experiences as a female auditor / auditee




I am new to Elsmar and have to mention how impressed I am with the site. The amount of information provided here is greatly appreciated! Coming up in a few months I will be attending training to become ISO 9001 Lead Auditor Certified. A relative has been doing ISO 9001 auditing for a bit of time now and has highly recommended I get into the same field. I have read a few articles stating that there are only a small number of female auditors out there and examples of REDACTED harassment (mainly from the auditors to female employees. But this had me thinking about the other spectrum of this. Harassment to the auditors. I was curious if there were any female ISO Auditors here (or any other type of auditors) that have come across this? If so, any suggestions you might have for a female going into this field.



Super Moderator
A few number of female auditors? The vast majority of my team mates over the last 16 years have been females and their professionalism on the whole is better than their male counterparts and I prefer to work with the ladies...Am I guilty of harassment?

As for the harassment part, I've not witnessed any and wouldn't tolerate it unless holding a door for a female team mate or auditee would be considered harassment.

Harassment has been defined of course, but what is it really? Would being more polite to a female auditee than their male counterpart be considered harassment, or use of a softer tone of voice? How about a preference to interviewing males over females in an attempt to avoid potential harassment claims, could that be construed to be a form of harassment itself?

Let's reverse the though process on this, what about harassment the other way, is it a form of harassment when females dress themselves in a manner that exposes cleavage, accents the bosom or exposes a bit of extra leg? How about the use of make up to make oneself more attractive, isn't that a subtle form of harassment by definition?

My point is, don't get all wrapped around the axle about this stuff, focus on gaining experience in this field, and oh yeah, unless you have something more to offer than a training certificate for 9001 please don't raise your expectations too high because 9001 auditors are extremely common.

Sidney Vianna

Post Responsibly
But this had me thinking about the other spectrum of this. Harassment to the auditors. I was curious if there were any female ISO Auditors here (or any other type of auditors) that have come across this?
At one point in a "previous life", I was a line manager for a few dozen auditors, and in my experience, the cases of auditors being harassed by "clients" (registrants) is very rare, for a simple reason: harassment is about power play and, in that relationship, the auditor has (true or perceived) power over the registrant. Thus, it is very rare for auditor harassment by auditees, in my experience. That does not mean that some unwelcome one-way flirting might not exist, but, it should be very easy for an auditor to dismiss it.

As for auditors harassing other auditors and client representatives, it does happen a little more frequent, but, still, it is rare in my experience. Also when it comes to harassment, perception is the issue at hand and some people might allege being harassed when there was no intent of harassment by the auditor. An auditor that becomes known as unprofessional in the market will see his/her employment opportunities dwindle very quickly, especially if they are caught in harassment cases because that creates a significant liability for the CB.

As you said, it is the whole spectrum. I had a male auditor once tell me that his wife had prohibited him of travelling out of town and participating in an audit if there was a female auditor on the team. So, one more curve ball for the scheduling function to juggle...

As for female auditors, in my estimation, they probably comprise 30-40% of the 3[sup]rd[/sup] party auditor workforce in the US, presently. Here at The Cove, two of the moderators work as external auditors: Jen Kirley and Gidget Stough. They might be able to chime in with their experiences.

Good luck.

Bev D

Heretical Statistician
Super Moderator
I agree with many of the points Randy made. Especially the point about not worrying about it too much and focusing on learning. Our best weapon against this behavior is get on with the job in a competent and professional manner.

I also get uncomfortable when women dress a bit “provocatively” in the workplace. It is distracting and even uncomfortable for all sides.

My experience with ‘harrassment’ In the workplace is obviously different from Randy’s as I am a woman. While it has gotten markedly better over the last 35 years :)mg:) that I’ve been doing this, I recently had an unnerving experience that took me off guard. At a tense meeting with a supplier the president came up to me and put his arm around me. Was he being paternalistic and trying to assert his dominance, was he trying to diffuse my position as the senior person from my company, was he simply trying to reduce the tension with a friendly human display? I only know that it was inappropriately personal and I was uncomfortable. I handled it professionally, but these types of events do still occur. I’ve been witness to more obvious and more direct forms of ‘dominance’ where the man will get very close to the woman and tower over her, or even cutting comments about their apparel that doesn’t meet their idea of what a woman should wear. And I’ve seen the reverse where a woman wearing clothes best reserved for evenings out get all flirty with a man to put him off guard.

All such forms of behavior have no place in the workplace...


Super Moderator
I've been thinking about this, and have to admit that as a second-party auditor, I can't say that I've ever been sexually harassed by either a fellow auditor or auditee. However, early in my auditing experience, I was on an audit with a colleague and witnessed the most disgusting display of "good ol' boys club" I'd ever seen. My colleague, the lead auditor, made some not-so-wise decisions during that audit, but because I was so new in the auditing arena, I didn't make a big deal about it at the time. But, when I returned to the office, I had a conversation with my boss about it and told him my feelings on the matter. He agreed, but company politics prevented him from elevating it to upper management (who was part of the problem - long story). I maintained my professionalism and stood my ground. The next time I went to audit that supplier, I noticed that things had changed just a bit for the better. While the whole "good ol' boys" attitude was still present, it wasn't as strong as the previous visit, and I was the sole auditor that time. I don't know what happened behind the scenes, but it was a better experience that time around, and I was thankful for it.


I'm a female auditor that has also been an auditee. I haven't experienced REDACTED harassment in either role. More often than not the challenge is dealing with auditees that are either hostile and/or argumentative. I've experienced this with both male and female auditees and although I only have the experience of going through it as a female, I suspect that auditees challenge female auditor's authority and knowledge to a greater extent. My advice is to develop your verbal communication skills along with your auditing skills, for example, through public speaking or books on having difficult conversations such as "Getting to Yes". Your ability to remain calm and in control of the audit will help to make your days easier and earn the respect of auditees and your peers. And accept that regardless of what you do you'll have some bad days, as everyone does. Learn from them and then put them behind you and move on. If a situation descends into the truly unprofessional be prepared to end the audit and take it up with your or the auditees' senior management - something I haven't had to do yet. Good luck!


Thank you all for your input. As many of you have mentioned.....gain experience and focus on learning. I plan to do so. @ImNotLisa....Love the suggestion of developing my verbal communication skills and reading some books on difficult situations. @Randy...You mention that ISO 9001 Auditors are extremely common. Any suggestions on additional certifications for someone who is new to the area of auditing? Again, I really appreciate everyone's advice, experiences and replies.

Coury Ferguson

Moderator here to help
Trusted Information Resource
[snip]...Any suggestions on additional certifications for someone who is new to the area of auditing? Again, I really appreciate everyone's advice, experiences and replies.

Choose your Systems carefully (ISO, AS and so forth). Try to spend time with someone who has already been performing 3rd Party Audits. If you are currently working for a company, get involved in the Internal Audit System, and 2nd Party Audits. If your company gets audited by a 3rd Party, go along and observed. Books are good, but only teach theory. Actual Hands On is your best teacher. Read the Standards to get a good understanding of the requirements.

Some of the tough parts of being a 3rd Party Auditor, is time away from home. Time away from Family. Lots of travel. When I was a 3rd Party Auditor, I was on the road about 90% of my time. It can be a rough road. I am not trying to discourage you, just letting you know some of things involved in being a 3rd Party Auditor. I enjoyed my time when I was auditing, just liked spending more time with my family.

Just my opinion.
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Moved On
@Randy...You mention that ISO 9001 Auditors are extremely common.

I think Randy means they are uncouth... :lol:

He's also overlooking the fact that it's well known that the industry has a lot of "gray hair". While ISO 9001 auditors are "ten a penny", another factor worth considering is that clients don't want to pay for travel, so being within a few zip codes of an industrial "hub" such as Detroit, Chicago and any number of others, if your resume has manufacturing is a good thing. But, be careful of the CB(s) you sign up with. Their relationship with you can start off badly and go rapidly downhill from what I have witnessed - after they've lured you with all kinds of offers...

As far as the OP goes, never encountered any harassment issues.


First, I think it's fantastic reading about quality professionals who want to get into auditing. I'm glad that you're starting off well and getting some decent training on it.

As far as the harassment part... well....
It really doesn't matter if you're wanting to be an auditor, copier repair technician, lawyer, CEO, whatever... there is NEVER any reason why you should be apprehensive about that position due to potential harassment.

Maybe I can put this another way...
Say Joe is a jerk and does things (like stuff that Bev and others mention) that is not appropriate. Joe will do this whether you're an auditor/auditee, software engineer, etc. And as such, if it happens, I hope you have the courage to put a stop to it.

But all the other workers, Bill, Steve, Cindy, Joe, etc. , don't harass people in the workplace. So whether you were an auditor or whatever, they will always treat you like a professional.

So jump in and be the best professional auditor you can be. My hope is that (mostly men; there can be a few women) working professionals learn there is proper decorum that should occur in the workplace for everybody.

A simple test for me is... would you want someone doing that/saying that to my wife (or daughter, or son, or fill in the blank) in the workplace?

Back to auditing... I know no one has time on their hands... but there are some really good threads and excellent information here at the Cove on audits and such. Better than "what to do" threads, I wished all auditors would have to read the "what not to do" threads and put them into practice.
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