Morgan Browne is the president and co-founder of Oakwyn Realty, one of Vancouver’s fastest-growing brokerage firms.
As the president and co-founder of Oakwyn Realty, I am proud to be both a woman and a leader in the business community. While the success of the company is one I am proud of, it is the behind-the-scenes actions that speak to my core values and heart. Despite Oakwyn’s growth and success, there were many years of tough lessons and learning experiences that shaped the company you see today. The real estate industry has come a long way, but women still face significant gender bias. I have had clients and male associates question my abilities because I am a woman and a mother. Only 12% of real estate CEOs are female, with only 7% of those leading companies of more than 100 employees. In my years as a female leader, I have learned five key lessons that allowed me to surpass these barriers and become an industry leader.
1. Leaders eat last. In my time spent as a business leader, the act of serving has always been far more rewarding than ordering. By serving those who serve me, I can promote growth from inside my company and within each individual. Many leaders get caught up in the image and title that comes with the role but forget that it is the team they lead who creates the company. Being a leader means leading those around you and providing them with the opportunities to meet their potential. As former First Lady Rosalynn Carter once said, “A leader takes people where they want to go. A great leader takes people where they don’t necessarily want to go, but ought to be.” It is typical for a woman to think of others before she thinks of herself; however, it is not a requirement of businesses for either men or women. By choosing to serve others and use a bottom-up approach, you can show others how to serve. This approach allows me to grow my team from the inside out.
2. Sit at the table. If you are going to pull up a chair, you need to be present. One tendency many people have is to be an active listener. This is useful sometimes, but the way I see it, if you have a seat, you should be making use of it. As a woman in a leadership role, I have never held back my voice or altered my opinion to meet the standards of those around me. Whether it’s in business or your personal life, courage always wins. My advice for those who are looking for a way to take a seat in a male-dominated industry would be to work hard, stay consistent and don’t let anyone tell you it’s not your place to be. Some women can be timid and reserved, even if they are deserving of a promotion or career advancement. Remember, it’s there if you want it. The table is open to everyone who deserves to be there, but sometimes you have to build a chair to take a seat.
3. Transparency and vulnerability are necessary. There is an idea that leaders are flawless people — strong, stoic and silent. While all these things can be true at times, it’s important to realize that leaders are just people, and all people have moments of vulnerability. Being able to express your vulnerabilities and be transparent in your relationships is a way to add value to your connections. Transparency allows you to make deeper connections and more meaningful relationships. As a woman, people might assume that your vulnerability is a weakness. I believe that the ability to express vulnerabilities takes greater strength than presenting a false image. Vulnerability is the authenticity and courage to set yourself apart. You can combat your fears of vulnerability through leading by example — show that you welcome the honesty and vulnerability of others.
4. Certainty diminishes fear. I have learned over the years that when one’s mind is sure, the fear of the unknown is diminished. Having confidence in your choices removes the fear that can be conjured by self-doubt and insecurity. By being certain, you are relying on your own self-value. As a woman, people will question your abilities and qualifications as a professional, especially as you make career advancements. It is important to not be too reactive with your decisions. Have a formula that allows you to test out what can happen in the short-term versus long-term when making a decision. The biggest obstacle that women will run into is people — both men and women — who will find any reason to dislike you, which can be especially difficult while making decisions. Learning to hold your word and integrity will help certainty set in.
5. Find your voice and use it. Finding your voice takes work. It is not something that comes naturally to every person, but it is something that every person possesses. Make the time and effort to find it and once you do, use it. Being able to project and use your voice is a skill that ties into all the previous lessons. Your voice gives you certainty, transparency and, above all else, it gets you a seat at the table. My advice for finding your voice is to write down your mission, purpose and core values so you can always refer back to them. Many women in the industry get bulldozed by their male counterparts without receiving proper recognition. Just remember that people can not cover a bright light forever.
These five lessons come after many years of experience but remain as true today as they did on day one. As a female business leader, I have had to navigate past the gender biases, glass ceilings and expectations that come with being in the real estate industry. These years of challenges have helped me find my voice and build a company that combats the challenges I experienced in the early stages of my career. I hope that with this advice, more women can find their voice and secure their seat at the table.