You are currently the Chief Operating Officer in an industry that still has a stunning lack of women in executive roles. Your knowledge of that lack of gender diversity has been the driving force behind “mPower” - an exclusive network for women in the real estate finance industry. How do you see this network leveraging the power and influence of women? What have been the challenges? Where do you see mPower having its biggest impact?
The real estate finance industry, like many others, has been slow to recognize women as senior leaders. mPower is designed to help women engage, network and learn both from one another and through professional development opportunities we provide.
We have seen tremendous success with our mPower events. In one year, we had over 1,000 women participate in eight events. Just last month, we held our first full day of programming for women called mPowering You in conjunction with MBA’s Annual Convention in Denver. Over 350 women participated in the Summit and the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. There were women from all stages of a career, from those who were just starting out to experienced professionals who have been in the industry for a while. It was so rewarding to hear the event inspired and empowered everyone – no matter level or tenure.
mPower also has a secure online community where women can post questions or share ideas with one another. The community has been active for one year and has over 1,300 members. One challenge has been while the community is large, the number of women participating in posted discussions could be more robust. We have seen an increased engagement, but it would be great if more women shared their comments and opinions. Often I hear women talk about how much the posts from other women helped them but, for whatever reason, they chose not to comment directly.
What strategies have you learned about advancing your own career that you could share with other women?
First, I would say: “don’t be afraid to take risks.” Stepping out of your comfort zone and taking on new responsibilities is not only very rewarding, but also provides a way for you to be seen in a different light, which most often is appealing to senior leaders within an organization.
Second, stay true to yourself. Be authentic. Don’t compromise your values or your integrity. And, make sure there are parts of your job that bring you joy!
How do you think being a woman impacts your leadership style?
I strive to lead by example, treat people the way I want to be treated, empower my team and be an active listener. Those qualities are not unique to women but they describe my leadership style.
You exude confidence in your abilities and career path. Where did you get this confidence?
For me, building confidence was an evolution. It took time, making the right decisions and choices and producing a lot of beyond expected results.
What do you think is the most significant barrier to female leadership?
I’ve read articles and hear a lot about the differences between men and women when considering applying for a new opportunity. Women will often hold themselves back when they don’t have 100 percent of the job requirements when men will more often take the risk and apply for that opportunity.
I had a boss who encouraged me to take a position that was well outside of my comfort zone and one that I did not have direct technical experience. He indicated the position needed a strong leader with excellent instincts, who had the ability to influence others, who was decisive and a proven track record of creating high performing teams. He told me I had all of those skills and the technical expertise comes from my team.
So, I took a leap of faith and stepped in that job. It changed the course of my career in ways I never envisioned. In addition to expanding my resume, I became known for my expertise and success in an entirely new area.
Where is your career heading? What will your next career challenge be?
I see my career continuing to grow. Over the next few years, I will devote more of my time to expand mPower and its impact in the industry. I want to see mPower thrive so MBA can continue supporting women in the real estate finance industry.
What will be the biggest challenge for the generation of women behind you?
It’s my hope that there will be more women in leadership so the next generation of women will have role models and leaders that help them navigate the challenges women face.
What advice do you have for women aiming for a senior leadership position?
Put yourself out there. Take on new assignments, stay actively engaged, participate in meetings, demonstrate quality decision making and be visible. Let management know who you are and how capable you are!
What are you doing to ensure you continue to grow and develop as a leader?
I always try to learn from mistakes and make sure I ask my management team what they need from me. Leadership isn’t a one-size fits all so it’s important to understand strengthens and weaknesses within yourself as well as your team to become the most effective management team possible.
What haven’t we covered that you think is an important message for women?
Women need to support one another. Share your successes and failures with one another. Step up if you see a woman struggling in the workplace and see if you can coach or help her. Working together is so powerful.
Why did you decide to join Aspire Ascend and the Executive Edge? How does Aspire Ascend support your career and/or personal goals?
Networking with other senior executive women is so important, and I wanted to expand my network beyond my industry. Aspire Ascend Executive Edge membership provides great networking events and provides timely information. In addition, the executive coaching provided – I chose to hone my public speaking with the help of Jan Fox – has been very helpful.