Digging In Further Into Female Leadership

A year ago I wrote an article regarding the need for more female leaders in real estate. Its something I became very passionate about after months of research. While I truly thought at the time that I was diving in pretty deep into the issue, I had barely scratched the surface.

This is not a problem solely of the real estate industry. It’s a national issue, across almost every industry. The issues are very complex. I chose, out of extreme curiosity, to dive into this more deeply. I can honestly admit that I’m doubtful that I have learned everything imaginable about this issue but I have had enough conversations since writing the previous article to have some sort of consensus. I want to point out, that I wouldn’t call myself a feminist. I just deeply care about helping women succeed.

Many women have to balance raising families with running their businesses:

Thoughts on work/life balance vary greatly by generation. For a person like myself, there is not such thing. I’ve never been able to articulate what that is in my own personal and professional life. I am a single mother of 2 children. They do come first in my priorities. I do, however, have a leadership role in my organization. This too, is very important to me. I have considered several times about wearing a GoPro for a day so that people could truly see what my day to day is like. I am a basket case. Recently, I saw a commercial making the rounds online from a brand of laundry detergent called Ariel. This video brought me to tears. This is almost exactly what I can imagine I look like on a day-to-day basis.

There’s no way to really blame this all on anyone. Much of this is created by myself. I chose my life. However I do believe strongly in the fact that I really do not have a choice. I have to be a parent. I can’t help that I don’t have a plethora of people to help me when help is needed. My life is what it is. There is not a lot I can do currently to change my own circumstances. Yes, I could have a less demanding career. But being successful in my career has always been very important to me. Besides that, I feel very strongly about showing my children what it means to work hard and showing them the rewards you can receive from doing so. I can’t rely on someone else to show them that.

In speaking with other women, a lot of their perceptions are the same. There seem to be dramatic differences expectations in women. I spoke with several married/working women with children. Many of them spoke about the fact that even though they have a career that is just as demanding as their partners, their typical responsibilities in the home do not change. They still have to be the primary caregiver for their children, make sure dinner is made, house is clean and that everyone is taken care of. Which frankly is why the video above is so powerful. We often have to be everything, for everyone. I can submit that there are men out there that help fill many of these roles. So believe me, this is no stereotype. However statistics show that women still overwhelmingly fill these roles. Looking back starting from the passing of the 19th Amendment, giving women the right to vote, to now, there has not been a huge progression of equality. Whether at work or at home.

On the flip side, in speaking with men, there’s a little difference in perspective. There are several different views with them.

  1. Many men still seek a partner who wants to fill the role as the household caretaker
  2. Several men still do what to be the head of the household or breadwinner
  3. Some men truly hope for women to become equals.
  4. Some males in executive roles believe that women do not seek out leadership positions and chose to be in supportive roles
  5. There is still the fear that women won’t be as committed to a executive role because of their needs at home.

 

Women feel they need to act like men:

There are varying levels of the types of female leaders. Many women feel that they need to act like men in order to succeed. I often feel this way myself. I fear showing any emotion, any weakness and I project an image that I have “balls of steel”. I am just as aggressive as any guy in a similar role to me. I see many women being the same. I remember a time, while I was going through something very difficult in my life. I hid this from everyone in my workplace. There was a day a while back that I was in a meeting with my boss. This meeting was positive in nature. My boss had taken me out to lunch to tell me how happy they were with my performance at work. Prior to this meeting I had received a phone call with some bad news in regards to my current life issue. But nonetheless I entered the lunch with my game face on. I wasn’t about to let anyone see me at a weak point. Something my boss said struck a chord at one point and I couldn’t hold back my emotions. I started crying. I was completely embarrassed. I ended up explaining what had been going on in my life. My boss was very supportive and wanted to do anything to help me. I didn’t feel like I was looked at as being weak. However since that day I have been insecure about it. I worry about that affecting my future progression of my career. It doesn’t mean that its true. I simply feel that way because of what I have learned during my life. I have taught myself that I need to be that way. It’s something I learned growing up.

This, I feel, it the wrong approach. Why should we have to be like a man? There are natural things about women that makes them great leaders. It’s our confidence that kills us. We are so critical of ourselves, even with our success. You have to have confidence in your own abilities. Yes, women are often scrutinized but if we are confident about ourselves and hold our ground, we can earn a lot of respect. Many women naturally have commonsense, are intuitive, problem solvers and are great with people. These are all qualities of a leader.

The pay gap:

Yes, this is still a thing. There are varying opinions of what the gap is. Women earn anywhere from .63 cents to .81 cents for every dollar a man earns. This however greatly varies by industry. Some of these gaps are unintended. Salesforce audited the pay for all the women their company. They unknowingly underpaid women but corrected that by giving out almost 3 Million in pay raises. Salesforce was unique in thinking to look at pay gaps within its own company. Maybe this is something that more companies should do. But would every company want to know? With how close payroll in budgeted in many companies, would they be able to create level playing field? I think the pay gap its very complex and hard to nail down to distinct facts. It’s been around for so long. It’s might not be as simple as women chose to take a more supportive role vs. leadership. Imagine how many employees feel when they work very hard but get overlooked for promotions and pay increases. I’d imagine this has happened to just as many woman as the number of women who chose to take a stronger role in the home.

Women are too emotionally invested:

Women can often let their own typical female qualities get in the way of their success. It’s harder for us to compartmentalize things at work. This can make it difficult to make tough decisions.We think deeper and longer about making changes. This can often frustrate our male counterparts. Women also tend to place a lot of energy building up relationships that they hope will  lead to sales. Connections are highly important to success, and nurturing strong professional relationships can go a long way. However, female leaders to also be direct and stay focused on their business goals.

Women also greatly fear failure. What many of us forget to remember is that you have to experience failure at some point to have a high level success. Many of the most successful leaders and entrepreneurs failed hundreds of times. We can’t always predict success without having some sort of struggle along the way.

By all means, stop listening to our inner voice that’s discouraging you from speaking up or sharing your ideas. Get out of your comfort zone! Assert yourself and spend less time fearing failure. I know in my role, I share plenty of ideas. It’s very true that many of these ideas many never come to fruition. But I have to take a chance with them. Because it will be the one great idea that could greatly help my company’s success.

The bottom line:

I have yet to come up with something definitive. After a year of deeply researching these issues, I can’t begin to come up with a real resolution. I’m still researching more and conducting further surveys. I hope to share more as I gather more data.

On a side note: I’ve decided to step away from writing on other sites outside of my own. I’ve contributed my fair share to others over the years and its time to write for myself.

-Brooke