Encouraging Women to Claim a Seat at the Table

Photo by Christina Morillo.

By Mia Voss

Mia Voss

March is Women’s History Month and this year’s theme is “Women Who Advocate for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion.” This theme recognizes women who understand that, for a positive future, we need to eliminate bias and discrimination from our lives and institutions. 

And what better way for us to continue that work than to encourage women to claim a seat at the table?

This can be achieved in various avenues: boardrooms, business meetings, communities, and homes, through design, marketing, advertising, media, and beyond.

Here’s why: we wield significant Female Buying Power. Consider these statistics::

  •  Women control over $31.8 trillion in worldwide spending.
  •  Women drive 70-80% of all consumer purchasing through buying power and influence.
  •  Women make 91% of new home purchases and 75% of decisions about buying new homes
  •  66% of consumer wealth will belong to women in the next decade.

These numbers highlight the significant economic power and influence that women have in the marketplace.

Women spend more time than men making economic decisions for their families, from consumer goods to services, which is even more reason for us to claim a seat at the table. 

Businesses and marketers often target women as a key demographic in their advertising, product development, and marketing strategies. Why not be on the other side of that table when it comes to products, goods, and services, whether that’s through our jobs, our buying power, or by speaking up?

What are the benefits of more women seated at all tables? 

I asked ChatGPT, and the results were thorough and accurate.

  • Diverse perspectives – Women bring different perspectives to problem-solving and decision-making, which can help avoid groupthink and bring new ideas to the table.
  • Better decision-making – Gender-balanced leadership teams can tap into a wealth of diverse perspectives, experiences, and skills, which can enable businesses and companies to make better decisions.
  • Improved innovation – Bringing more women into the workforce can lead to greater innovation within tech organizations.
  • Better representation – Better representation can ensure women’s voices are heard and their issues fairly recognized. For example, studies show that women legislators are more likely than men to address women’s interests. (my note: well, THAT’S an obvious and easy assessment)

Our presence in all spaces should be normalized, not an anomaly. As a woman in the construction industry for 20+ years, I learned to quell my fears about being the only woman in a room full of men. I felt a sense of pride that I was able to hold my own and claim my space as one of the few women present on the job site in a managerial role. 

However, I was also feeding into the system of patriarchy. Instead of encouraging more women to join me at the table, I pulled the ladder up behind me, not realizing how other women (and I) could benefit from representation.

Gender Pay Gaps

Women earn 84% less than their male counterparts (across all professions).

Women typically shoulder many more responsibilities outside of work and the continuing pay gap creates a huge obstacle. 

As of 2020, women make up 36.7% of the commercial real estate industry, with a fixed salary gap of 10.2% and a 55.9% gap in commissions and bonuses. Those numbers are daunting. 

One bright spot — women in construction earn 99.1% of what men are earning in the construction industry — I can appreciate this. Working towards that more equitable number will make a huge difference for women.

It feels like a big ask to find a seat at the table

Let’s face it, women in the workplace are already overloaded and, looking at the statistics above, getting a seat at the table can feel overwhelming and sometimes even impossible. 

This call to action should not be in a vacuum or siloed. Rugged individualism has long been lauded and excessively romanticized, often to the detriment of marginalized individuals. One powerful antidote to this is embracing COMMUNITY, whether through connections with colleagues, participation in networking groups, volunteering, or engaging with your circle of friends.

BYOT (Bring Or Build Your Own Table)

Another step in the right direction is to build or create your own table. Is there a purpose or a mission that’s calling you and you can’t find a pathway or channel to bring it to fruition? 

Consider creating it yourself (whether that’s a new business, endeavor or passion) Looking around for others. I mentioned community just now – I’m sure you’ll quickly find others who want to support or even join you in this endeavor. As the saying goes “Closed mouths don’t get fed” and staying silent due to fear is one way to keep the new table from being built. 

A few inspirational thoughts from two women I greatly admire:

Stanimira McKnight, MD, MS, RPSGT, CEO – Better Sleep Score  — “I just thought it was always my place. I have the right to be here!”

Stephanie Goldstein, head of marketing, Alfa Romeo — “You have to step away from the fear of the ‘what if’. Typically women tend to consider all of the unknowns beforehand. This can leave us frozen in fear or indecision and truly hold us back.”

Calling All Men:

Katica Roy makes a critical point in her recent Fast Company article entitled ‘PUTTING MORE WOMEN IN LEADERSHIP ROLES WON’T SOLVE SYSTEM
.’ “The subjects of inequity shouldn’t be tasked to fix a system they didn’t break,” says Roy.

So, men, please don’t tune out, this involves you too. Having more women present as part of the decision-making process does not mean less room for you. Men advocating for inclusivity, better job environments, and equal pay unifies us and removes additional labor for women which is a great place to start. 

Action Items: Get Curious & Creative 

I encourage you to explore how you can claim a seat at the tables in your life. It can be as simple as using your voice…and, of course, the power of your wallet (and most importantly, your vote). I’d love to hear your thoughts, ideas, actions, and inspiration to encourage women to claim a seat at the table.

As we honor Women’s History Month, let’s celebrate all the hard work that amazing women such as Shirley Chisholm, Lilly Ledbetter, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Sonia Sotomayor, and Ida B. Wells (to name a few) have done to get us where we are today. More progress is needed, essential and possible.

As I’m writing this, it was just announced that the Chicago Bears just hired Jennifer King as an offensive assistant. She is the first female coach in the team’s history. More of this, please!

Mia Voss is the owner of TMC Services, a Colorado-based company that provides punch list management and quality control services for condominiums, hotels, resorts, multifamily, mixed-use, and commercial projects. Connect with Mia on LinkedIn.

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