Boys. Men. Guys. Whatever. I'm surrounded by them all the time. I have two little brothers, a dad, my mother's husband, and at least three guy friends I consider amongst my closest. And then there's the office where us females are very obviously outnumbered. Commercial real estate, and brokerage in general, is very alpha-male dominated. A bunch of former professional, Olympic and college athletes. And me.
Going in to business school, I knew that as a female I would be in the minority. But like I said, I'm fairly used to it. I thought (and still think to a certain extent) that being a female in a man's world has its distinct advantages. For better or worse, I'm noticed because I'm just not expected. The differential between men and women in both business school and the business world in general is getting smaller. But especially at the C-level, women are still underrepresented.
When I first started working with a structured commercial real estate team, I noticed right away that a woman's voice was missing. In the process of securing business, negotiating contracts and following up with leases, my team lacked the sense of process, logic and relating that women seem to inherently have. Now some men, especially in such a cut-throat atmosphere like brokerage, don't like working with women. But that's only a reflection of their own insecurities. Not to draw on stereotypes, but women offer a different perspective. Having a woman on your team is a problem-solving technique, pure and simple.
In the last few months, it has become increasingly obvious that I relate to men differently than most women. I'm a fairly typical female in that I wear skirts, put on makeup, get nervous around cute boys and talk on the phone. Even though I don't like to shop (if I were good at it, that might be a different story), I'm super tidy, chat it up with the ladies at work and love chick flicks. There's nothing about me that screams "she's one of the boys".
But more than once, I've found myself surrounded by a table full of men. One will say something slightly inappropriate for mixed company and immediate ask for forgiveness because he only then realizes I was listening. Inevitably, another one will pipe up and add that "Carolyn's cool". Or "she can hang". And I am and I can. And I want to. I have a strong personality. And a foul mouth. And sarcastic humor, a big laugh and I can talk about cars. I like to drink beer, go to baseball games and watch golf. Heck, I once went to an Angel's game and sat in the VIP seats while wearing a pencil skirt and heels. I didn't think twice about it. There were plenty of men around still in their suits who obviously came straight from the office. Why was I getting funny looks?
Because I look and act fairly femine, I never thought twice about it. Only recently have I begun to notice whom I'm attracted to in social situations. I have a close set of girlfriends. I'm close to my mom. I like pearls, cardigans and the color pink. But put me in a classroom setting and I'm in the corner with all the boys.