As they say, timing is everything. In the days leading up to the CREW Convention, my social media news feed was inundated with stories of #metoo. I had a mixed reaction - touched to see so many women sharing, yet disheartened so many strong, powerful women responding to these two little words. Those who have been brave enough to speak out have certainly embraced the theme of the 2017 Convention - Disrupt - but I couldn’t help but wonder if the initial disruption would be enough to make a lasting, impactful change in the way women are treated in all walks of life. An initial disruption is great, but, as I learned at Convention, it takes much more than bringing issues to light to enact change.
One of my favorite speakers at Convention was Travis Bradberry. Travis’s research focuses on Emotional Intelligence - how well we interact with the people and situations around us. It’s easy to focus on the day to day tasks - client demands, phone calls, dinner plans, family needs - without really taking time to make genuine connections with our coworkers, friends and family. Emotional intelligence is undoubtedly an important factor in an individual’s success. Yet, Travis’s research shows an inverse relationship between position in a company and Emotional Intelligence, i.e., a CEO will typically have lower emotional intelligence than a manager. Women typically have a higher emotional intelligence than men. When combined with the low number of women executives, especially in real estate, the research begs the question of whether women’s high emotional intelligence is preventing them from succeeding in the boardroom. In other words, are we too concerned about relationships to take the needed actions to climb the corporate ladder? Or are the male decision makers (who are typically low on emotional intelligence), not giving credence to the benefits of high emotional intelligence when making promotion decisions? Most importantly, how can we disrupt this correlation?
The highlight of day three was Geena Davis. Growing up, I loved A League of Their Own - in my mind, this was the original “throw like a girl” campaign. Geena spoke about how her Foundation is focusing on portrayal of women and girls in programming targeted to kids ages 11 and under. She noted that in the real world, women are approximately 1 in 5 of the engineering workforce. In television and cinema, women are 1 in 15. Women are continuously cast in roles that take away their power. Why, in a world with limitless possibilities, are we putting women even farther back? If children are continually shown images of women as weak, subservient and sexualized, is it any surprise that the #metoo campaign resonated with so many women?
This isn’t to say Convention was all gloom and doom - on the contrary, it was very empowering to see so many successful women who have overcome the stereotypes, sexism and the failure to place value on emotional intelligence to have amazing and impactful careers. Looking around the room at the 1,000+ women who were present, all there to help support and pull each other up, I was inspired to think about what I could do at my firm and in my life to disrupt the everyday status quo. We are still a long way from gender parity, but small steps by many can help forge the path ahead. Hopefully, one day, when asked if we have been able to overcome the obstacles placed in our paths, we can all say, #metoo.