As an apartment developer, I was partly compensated based on the number of units I produced in a year. It was a soup to nuts job. I was responsible for every phase of the deal, and most took a year to close. My territories included Tennessee, Iowa, and Colorado. Travel was essential.
I started the job fresh out of business school. I was chomping at the bit, ready to take the real estate world by storm. I was armed with all the tools required for success – years of previous work experience, a freshly minted MBA, determination, a strong work ethic, and a supportive family. During my first week on the job, I sat around a table with two male colleagues, both of whom were older men. We were discussing the first steps I should take in seeking development opportunities in the Memphis area. One of the men turned to his colleague and asked, “Do we send women on the road alone?” He continued, “Is it safe, or should we send someone with her?” I quietly but firmly insisted that I would be fine, and off I went to Memphis. Over the next eight years, I produced over 1,000 apartments in Tennessee, and added Iowa and Colorado to my turf, and contributed millions of dollars to the company’s bottom line.
What if my boss had decided that he would not send a woman on the road alone? How would I have been compensated for developing 1,000 apartments? Would I have received 50% of my incentive, instead of 100%? How would I have proven my worth to my superiors and colleagues? How would I have advanced my career? What if there had been a law forbidding me to travel alone? Would I have chosen the same career path?
I am in awe of the women who, despite the ban on military combat, chose a military career. They must have been so passionate and so dedicated to military service that they were willing to work in a field that is structured to limit their upward career mobility. Or was it their best financial opportunity? Whatever their reasons, I tip my hat to them. I thank them for their service to our country. I thank them for their service to our sex. I thank them for fighting on behalf of all of us and our daughters and sons. I congratulate them on last week’s ban and wish them success in whatever they choose to do next.
There were many days that I congratulated myself on fighting the good fight as a woman working in the male-dominated real estate industry. I had no idea what it really meant to fight the good fight, but women in the military do.