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Women in Power

Revathi Greenwood • 3/1/2019
Women’s importance and influence in the workplace is growing exponentially, and historically male-dominated industries like commercial real estate are becoming increasingly more diverse.

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There are real benefits to bringing diverse thinking to leadership roles in companies. Today, Cushman & Wakefield has more women in senior and leadership roles than ever before, leading divisions, practice groups, regions and more. In fact, Cushman & Wakefield recently added three stellar candidates to our board who were selected for their excellence, unique perspective, qualifications and strategic thinking. They were all women.

From “Doer” to “Enabler”

When you first become a leader, there is a mind shift that occurs from being a “doer” to being an “enabler” – a difficult transition regardless of gender. Usually people in leadership roles have proven to be individual star performers, but now are responsible for leading a team. As a leader, you have to learn to stand back and let the people on your team shine, which ultimately reflects well on you as a leader. Instead of trying to stand out on your own, you are now responsible for enabling the success of the broader group and the company as a whole.

The Nice vs. Tough Double Bind

While there are certainly similarities in how men and women lead and what makes a strong leader, it is well documented that women – on average- have a different leadership style to men. For example, the more successful a woman is, the less likeable she’s typically perceived to be, while male leaders don’t worry as much about being liked so much as being competent. Women, on the other hand, seek to find the balance between warmth and competence, which applies to every aspect of their leadership style, even down to how we speak. Women have to think proactively about not just what we are saying but how vocal inflections come across. Women can have a natural tendency to invoke a higher pitch and utilize filler language. It’s important to use a pitch and tone that comes across in a way that isn’t too cold and clinical or too soft and can be perceived as waffling.

A recent article in Harvard Business Review found that there are, in fact, four paradoxes that women face in the fight for balance between warmth and competence, including: demanding yet caring, authoritative yet participative, advocating for themselves yet serving others, and maintaining distance yet being approachable. “…to successfully navigate these paradoxes, women leaders first need to become aware of them, teasing out the different tensions rolled up into the central nice/tough double bind,” the article said. “Then, they can develop and customize a repertoire of strategies to manage, thereby enhancing their effectiveness and resilience.” Lots to juggle there but one many successful female leaders within Cushman & Wakefield are doing – combining competence with warm personalities, which contributes to their success.

I vs We Negotiation Styles

Another difference is how men and women negotiate. Male leaders typically negotiate using “I” statements, while female leaders use “team” statements – and are penalized for not doing so. However, a team mentality serves women in leadership roles well. In 2015, Gallup research found that female leaders are better at both engaging and connecting with employees. “Look deeper into the Gallup research, and you’ll find that female leaders were rated higher in areas that required connecting with the people they led, such as giving recognition, providing helpful performance feedback, and getting people in the right role so they would learn and grow,” wrote author Michael Stallard in a Forbes article.

Female Mentorship and Bonding

As more women join the leadership ranks, it’s important to support one another to figure out how to navigate an industry historically led by men. The company’s Women’s Integrated Network is one way for women to connect on a local and national level. Additionally, with the increase in female leaders, we are in a good position to start forming bonds and mentoring one another to create our own formal and informal networks.

Some of the top leading women at the firm recently spent time outside of the office talking about things that matter to us as women and female leaders, enabling us to form stronger bonds. As we continue to strengthen these bonds, women leaders of today and tomorrow have the opportunity to navigate the corporate environment in a way that is more meaningful and fulfilling to us.

Ms. Greenwood is the Americas Head of Research for Cushman & Wakefield with overall responsibility for the research platform within the Americas region. She provides leadership to hundreds of professionals who are focused on producing predictive, timely and interpretative analysis on the latest real estate trends. A well-established thought leader, Revathi has 22 years of experience in the CRE industry, advising on properties valued at more than $15 billion for various clients.

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