Teresa Boardman is a long-time columnist with 400-plus Inman columns under her belt. She writes about her real estate observations and experiences as an officeless indie broker in Minnesota.
The past couple of years have been confusing to some and a bit scary at times with the #MeToo movement and important men losing their jobs just because of their alleged behavior toward some women.
As if that weren’t enough, we now have an influx of women and people of color in Congress. Things may never be the same again, but they can stay the same for the leadership group of your organization.
Don’t worry, this isn’t going to be one of those ball-busting “feminist” pieces that man-haters write. Instead, it is an affirmation of the effectiveness of current systems. There are systems in place in many organizations to keep leadership male.
I don’t want anyone to think I am all “worked up” over this either or that I don’t like men. Let’s face it, even if I didn’t like men, my likes and dislikes don’t change the fact that men are in charge of just about everything on a planet with more women than men.
That doesn’t just happen. That takes effort, and in some cases, hard work.
Worldwide it was estimated in 2017 by the World Economic Forum that it will take 217 years for women to catch up with men when it comes to pay. I think if we work together, we can slow that down a bit.
I have put together some tried-and-true ways of keeping your organization’s male power structure in place without getting too much flak from women who think they deserve a shot at leadership. I’ll write about equal pay some other time. These methods have worked well for many organizations for a long time now.
Keeping leadership, committees and volunteer positions male is fairly easy for associations, real estate companies and even real estate teams. I put together some guidelines. A kind of “how-to” plan.
But first, I think it is important for every organization in this day and age to have some kind of a diversity statement. It might simply say that it is an organizational goal to increase the number of women in leadership positions in 2019.
As long as there are no numeric goals tied to that and no plan in place, nothing will change. It is like a real estate salesperson stating that they will double their sales in 2019 without having a plan and without doing anything differently than they did in 2018.
I could name several organizations that have diversity statements in their marketing but still have 80 percent or 90 percent male leadership and likely always will even though there is an abundance of qualified women.
I look at the faces of those leaders, and they are the same faces I see on industry “lists” made by male “deciders.” They are the “right” people.
For a company, association, team or committee to retain mostly male leadership, organizations have to work at it. Here are a few things they can do:
- Instead of having stated qualifications for leadership positions, keep them fuzzy or simply have candidates state their qualifications.
- Don’t implement a uniform and transparent application process.
- Don’t post job openings publicly. Chances are, you, someone in your organization or a friend of yours already knows who would be perfect for the job, so why complicate the process?
- Have positions filled by recommendation or appointment only. That way friends will recommend friends. Most people don’t know everyone, so it narrows the field of candidates, shortens the selection process and keeps people you don’t know or like from applying.
- Candidate job titles can be used to determine qualifications. Income is also a qualification.
- In the real estate industry, being a second-, third- or fourth-generation Realtor can be used as a qualification. Just like in the British monarchy, we know that leadership is in the blood, especially for those born to wealth and privilege.
When someone notices that there aren’t any women or few women in positions of power, it is easy to state that you are looking for the most qualified people and that you invite women to apply but for some reason, they don’t apply or are not qualified, right?
Talking about qualifications and stating that there are no qualified women or few qualified women is the easiest way to keep the most aggressive women from trying to push their way into a leadership position.
The qualifications are mostly soft skills like leadership ability, communication skills, organizational ability, etc. Those skills are hard to measure, and it is easy to say that one person has stronger skills than another. Leadership isn’t rocket science or brain surgery.
One of the best ways to handle any situation where women are saying the system is unfair is to blame them. That can easily be done by stating that women need to come forward.
The added benefit of making that statement is that your organization doesn’t have to invest in outreach or do anything to encourage female application or participation.
If a woman does become a leader, make sure to use her as an example of how your organization attracts women leaders and as a statement about diversity on your leadership team.
Let everyone know that she is exceptional, but if other women try hard enough, they might make it someday too, but they never do. Some women will work extra hard for the smallest chance of success and your organization is likely to benefit from that hard work.
There are those who say they don’t see or notice race or gender; they just look at qualifications. Those people will be an asset to any organization that wants to keep the current mostly-male power structure in place. People who don’t appreciate or even see diversity aren’t going to value it in your organization or make it a priority.
Adding women to departments and jobs that are usually held by men can really change a company. Studies show that women are good for business. It isn’t hard to find studies and articles that suggest having more women in leadership positions is good for the bottom line.
It is too bad that there are so few qualified female candidates and that it is so easy to keep qualified women from applying.