If you would indulge me for a moment please, create a picture in your head of the following person: a real estate mogul, land developer, builder, the founder of five companies and a self-made millionaire
If you had not read the headline to this article, would you have imagined this person to be a man? If so, you're not alone. Many people do the same.
But the description above is actually about me. I'm also a single mom of two, a very proud immigrant to Canada and forever a curious entrepreneur at heart.
Our current era of the #MeToo and #TimesUp movement makes me think back to my first few years as a novice real estate agent. I had my fair share of men attempt to flirt with me. Some men even told me that my "beautiful hair" was enough to sell their house. My immediate and automatic response was always, "Thank you for the compliment but my hair has nothing to do with my ability to sell your house."
I know my experience is not unique, and that makes me think about how we can collectively work to change such social behaviours around us. This is arguably a complex question, but I believe solutions start with awareness and as women, sharing personal experiences with each other. So if I may, here's a little bit more of my background.
I was born in a refugee camp to a blended family of seven brothers and two sisters. From time to time, we had to get rations from the United Nations, or manage our household without running water. When we hit hard times, my family dinners sometimes consisted of bread dipped in tea — just enough to placate hungry tummies. The ironic thing was: I never felt poor. I always believed I had plenty because my family always shared what we had with others who had even less than us.
When I was just 15, however, my life turned upside down. My beloved father wanted a better life for me and arranged my marriage to a man living in Canada whom I had never met. This was a customary practice, but I was still shocked.
After I finished high school and then college, I became a proud mom of two. I found my calling in real estate and eventually built up the courage to leave my marriage.
People often look at me and ask, "How I did you go from a refugee camp to becoming such a real estate success?" My answer is: by holding onto my abundance mindset.
In the toughest of situations, the beliefs we hold in our hearts can make all the difference.
The day I received keys to the first house I bought, I remember crying in the kitchen questioning how I was going to make it on my own, while taking care of my two children. I had no furniture and no idea how I was going to make my next mortgage payment. In that moment, I forced myself to snap out of that mindset. I told myself that I was healthy and capable of working, and therefore, I was one of the luckiest people in the world.
Coming from a place of abundance, I immediately called a charity and sponsored a child in need, as a reminder that I had so much, and therefore I had so much to give as well. With that mindset, I not only met my payment obligations, but also paid off that mortgage in just over four years.
In the spirit of owning our worth and embracing abundance, here are a few tips that have helped me "break the mold" in a heavily male-dominated industry. I hope they can inspire you too:
Forget about "fitting in"
All too often, women feel pressured to play like a man to fit in. To which I say: we mustn't ever change who we are. Instead, we must create a culture in the workforce that advocates for women to play to our strengths.
Be a unicorn
In a room full of men, I've never thought to myself, "Oh, I'm the only woman here." Instead, I believed that I must have something special to offer since I'm unique here. How lucky am I to be in such a position?
Create common ground
When I'd notice some men treating me like an adversary, I'd ask them about their daughters, sisters, mothers and other important female figures in their life. That often broke down walls creating real connections.
Ignore those, "Who the hell are you to be here?" insinuations
For every man out there who may feel threatened by a woman, there are many others who are very supportive. I always chose to concentrate on men who welcomed me and were willing to mentor me. I blocked out energy from men who were intimidated by me. It's not our place to judge others. We may never know what they've gone through. We should thank them for showing up, and let them go.
On the path to success, mindset is everything.
Cheers to your success!