The glass ceiling needs a shine.
In fairy tales like Snow White, Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty, little girls learn that rewards, like a knight in shining armor, are earned by being passive, demure and quiet. The few women who do speak out were usually witches or evildoers. But unlike what we were told in these fairy tales, women are born for business.
Today, studies show that women process about 20,000 words per day, while men process about 7,000. Women have approximately 11 percent more brain cells responsible for language. Women can speak at a speed of 250 words per minute and have 12 percent more neurons in the area of the brain responsible for memory, feelings and critical thinking.
Studies also show that women use more parts of their brains then men when given a wide variety of verbal and spatial tasks. This strengthens their ability to multitask and interact effectively on many levels. In other words, women are born for business.
Women bring different skills to a business situation than men do. Women are accustomed to responding to stressful situations by reaching out and collaborating. Men, on the contrary, take the “fight or flight” approach. They respond aggressively or withdraw themselves from the situation.
As for negotiating, Eve was the one who convinced Adam to take a bite of the apple …
So, with all of these talents, why aren’t women the majority in businesses like commercial real estate?
Commercial real estate offers financial freedom, flexibility, creativity, independence, entrepreneurialism—and yet it’s long been dominated by men. This profession is a great career choice for businesswomen who experience more demands on their time trying to balance family and careers.
Here are a few female characteristics that may limit a woman’s progress. By avoiding these actions, you will be more effective and shine through any glass ceiling!
Women often qualify what they say, softening their messages for fear of being considered aggressive. Using words like “I think,” “I feel,” and ”maybe” downplays the message. When men go straight to the point, they sound confident, while women come across as hesitant.
Take a position of power in a meeting. Sit at the head of the table or in a prominent area. Women should be seen and heard.
Intuition is a gift: use it. Women perceive things on an intuitive level. When in doubt, sit it out. Follow your intuition.
Learn to say no. Many women take a passive approach when asked to take on more than they should. This is due to our nurturing qualities. Be straight and on point. Excuses aren’t necessary. Once you are known as someone who is decisive and confident, people will be more careful in what they ask from you.
Intonation is also an important factor. Refrain from “singing” your statements. Speak clearly with authority and conviction. Let silence fall. Avoid filling that quiet space with words like “um” and “you know.” Silence lets it be known that you expect a serious answer and gives the party you are speaking with time to carefully consider what you have said.
Many women are reluctant to ask for what they may need, leading to resentment. Decide what you want, and then go get it. Ask for what you need without excuses or apologies. Be clear and concise.
Now for the touchy part: no crying! Tears are for funerals, weddings and movies. There is no place for tears in business.
You can show passion, excitement and anger in business. But be mindful of how you express it. When involved in confrontation, anticipate the other party’s position and formulate a resolution in a non-emotional manner.
Being a woman can be an advantage in an unbalanced business environment. Embrace your femininity and allow it to shine though under this new thicker skin.
To be successful in commercial real estate, a woman must have tremendous self-confidence and a strong personality. You can stand out in the crowd in a male-dominated field and be successful as a woman. If you are a woman, you’re memorable. That’s your advantage.
Keep your eye on the goal and spend your energy positively. People may say and do hurtful things. They don’t deserve your time. They will eventually fade into the oblivion from which they came. But you will be seen and heard.
When many of today’s successful real estate women entered the field, it was a good-old-boy network. Things have changed. For the most part, men are accepting of women in positions of power in real estate. If you are a woman starting out in real estate today, find a firm where women are celebrated and in high-ranking positions. Don’t be afraid to ask pointed questions and dig deeply before you jump in.
As for fairy tales, most had happy endings. Today, women are trading rewards like a knight in shining armor or tight, uncomfortable glass slippers for their earned seats as heads of companies and in boardrooms.
You go girl!
Adelaide Polsinelli is Senior Director at Eastern Consolidated, an investment services firm in New York. She is a veteran real estate professional with more than 25 years of real estate brokerage experience.