Morgan Browne is the President and Co-Founder of Oakwyn Realty, one of Vancouver’s fastest-growing brokerage firms.
Why do women place a cap on their success? Is it by our own doing, or is it a product of the social constraints and gender biases of male-dominated industries? When I was younger, I did not see any differences in the skill sets needed by men and women to perform successfully in the same profession. It was not until I entered the business community that it became abundantly clear that there were unseen rules guiding gender expectations. As someone who started in the real estate industry as a wide-eyed 21-year-old woman, I quickly realized that others, both men and women, had already placed their limitations on me professionally. Looking back, these limitations helped shape me for the better and provided me with a few words of wisdom. For my fellow female entrepreneurs, I give you my five most informative lessons about being a woman in a male-dominated industry.
1. Show people your talent.
If you want to succeed in a competitive industry, such as real estate, you need to show off your ability to bring results to the table. In my experience, it took tangible results for people to start taking me seriously. In my first year as a real estate agent, no one spoke to me. I was one woman working with 20 male agents at one of the top brokerages in downtown Vancouver. At that moment, I realized that I had to make my mark by working hard and keeping my head low. After a few months, I finally got a hat trick — three sales! This moment changed things and got people to take me seriously. Only once I started pulling results, my co-workers started seeing me as an equal player. It was a rude awakening. If you are going to compete, you need to show up with results, not just talk about it.
2. You do you.
People will always be quick to share their opinions, especially when they see you start to be successful. It’s important that as a woman, you do not let these voices and gender expectations dictate what you can and cannot do. When I first started to produce as an agent, an associate said to me, “Well, you can’t be doing what you do when you have kids. What are you going to do when that happens?” This is an excellent example of how our environment and social expectations can work to keep us from breaking boundaries and pushing for growth. Being a woman in a competitive industry has not held me back from being a mother, being a top 1% agent or running a real estate brokerage. When it comes to your career, only you can decide what your limitations and expectations are.
3. Find expanders.
Finding new ways to expand your experience and knowledge is crucial to creating both personal and professional growth. I have often looked to other people, who I refer to as expanders, to inspire me and help answer questions during tough times. We all need teachers in our lives, especially as we grow in an industry that prioritizes competition and gender bias. Using expanders, we can benefit from others’ learned experiences, especially if these experiences can prevent us from recreating past mistakes or poor decisions. Learning from successful people, both men and women, has enabled me to approach situations with alternative perspectives and better understand my industry.
4. Think big and then think bigger.
You want to be considered an equal player in the game, not a woman in the game. In an industry like real estate, your gender should not be a predecessor of your ability to succeed. It’s all about personal perception and your performance record. Women are an asset to the industry and deserve equal playing opportunities, but that means putting in the practice for game time. When you show up to the game, you are there to win regardless of your gender — do not limit yourself to be labeled differently.
5. Support women in your industry.
Woman-to-woman support is the best way to change an industry that puts a limitation on gender. This means that we, as women, must actively stand up for other women and lead by example. Upon starting my business, I incorporated a women’s group, Women of Oakwyn (WOO), that united all our female agents. WOO supports female agents and helps to fight the stigma and assumptions that have become ingrained in the industry. Being a woman in a male-dominated industry means that you will experience ageism, sexism and possibly sexual harassment throughout your career. By uniting women, we can work smarter and not fold into old patterns of sexism in the industry. Trust in yourself. Stand up for others, and continue to climb toward your goals.
Finding success in a male-dominated industry is a challenge, but it is not impossible. If you are willing to put in the work, show up with results and use the resources available to you to expand, you will be able to overcome any obstacle in your path. Remember, you are an asset and someone who brings value to the table. Do not limit yourself to the expectations of others. Think bigger. Do bigger. There is always room at the table for those who are willing to earn their seat.