March is International Women’s Month and as a company, we are excited to participate and acknowledge the many strong women a part of Fortress Proptech.
IWD is not only a celebration of how far we’ve come as a society to progress gender equality, but also a necessary annual reminder of how much still needs to happen before gender bias and discrimination against women is a thing of the past.
While today we celebrate the fact that 41% of the North American Fortress team is female, we know that we too have a long way to go to make a bigger impact.
Meet 7 women at Fortress Protech who strongly feel they are helping #EmbraceEquity not just this month, but every single day.
Erin Cook, Director Client Services
Can you tell us about a female role model who has inspired you in your career?
I had the pleasure of working with a phenomenal leader, mentor, and all-around human I know, Julia, for 10 years. She hired me for my first Property Manager job for a very challenging lease up and I don't think I would have stayed in Property Management if it wasn't for her. Through her example, she has inspired me to always strive to be a better leader tomorrow than I was today. She had a huge impact on me professionally and personally. Below are a few of my favorite things she taught me:
Every day is a new opportunity to kill it! Show up and show out.
Learn what motivates each member of your team and what they value. Tailor goal and rewards to what they value.
When I would get overwhelmed, she would always say “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time”.
Not every day will be a win, but the opportunity to learn from today's loss can easily turn it into tomorrow’s win.
Mary-Katherine Johnson, Senior Account Executive
How do you believe women can support each other in the workplace and in their personal lives?
Most women can attest that far too often, we have a natural instinct to compare ourselves to those around us. One of my favorite quotes in life is, "Comparison is the thief of joy." I think this holds true in both our professional and personal lives. When we eliminate this idea that someone else's success or failures are at the expense of our own, we unlock the freedom to truly celebrate one another...and that is a pretty joyful thing! Supporting women looks like encouragement during the good and bad times, celebrating each other's accomplishments, both big and small, and mutually understanding that support is a two-way street. If we want support, we must show support. My desire to support women is a direct result of the support I have experienced throughout my professional and personal life. To the women who set the bar high, thank you, and to the women who don't feel supported in the room they are in, it's time to go to a different room!
Hayley Haynes, Controller
What advice would you give to other women who are just starting their careers?
I think as women, especially early in our careers, we tend to under value our work. So my advice would be that your input, knowledge, contributions, and work is important. Be confident in your skills. The more you understand the value you bring to the table, the more confidence you will have in yourself and your work, and in turn, the more confidence people will have in you.
Ryan Strait, VP of Product
What advice would you give to other women who are just starting their careers?
Don’t get in the way of your own success or fear that you are inferior because you are a woman. Everyone has imposter syndrome at some point regardless of their gender, so get through it, it’s a sign that you want a challenge and care about the outcome.
Use your female strengths as career advantages. I had previously been told by a male leader that they wanted to see me be more aggressive and assertive in my communication style. Just because that was how he had found success, that was a comfortable critique for him to relay. My empathy and compassionate approach was being seen as a weakness, when in reality it’s a more natural and effective way for me to relate and build relationships with peers, other employees, and customers. Also, leveraging great communication skills and helping others understand why we are doing something rather than commanding what we are doing is another strength I have used to my advantage. People tend to be more motivated when they are bought in and want to do them rather than because they were told to. Lastly, multitask, it’s okay. Women are capable of quickly responding to simultaneous tasks or challenges at once without sacrificing on quality. Use it to your advantage.
Every workplace has varying degrees of emphasis placed on being an inclusive workplace that values gender equality. If you are stepping into an environment that is just starting down this path, be a change agent. Don’t be afraid to seek out relationships and mentorships with other females and inclusive males to build a support network not only for yourself but others. It is incredibly empowering to be surrounded by other like-minded individuals that value your strengths as a female.
Kerri Davis, CEO/President
How do you balance your personal life with your professional life?
I won't claim to be an expert on this, but I have finally come to a place where this is not a problem for me, and I credit that to two things:
- I don't pit personal against professional. I don't see a work/life balance just like I don't see a child/life balance. My children are a huge part of my life, just like my work! To describe them as two different things "work vs. life balance" doesn't make sense to me. When I view it through this lens, I can manage my life in its entirety, and all of the components (work and children being two of them) holistically and determine where to prioritize my time. Important industry conference coming up - work is prioritized and more time is spent here. Child birthday coming up - children are prioritized and time is spent here. This lens is also hugely beneficial in reducing guilt and anxiety - I spend my time where it needs to be spent as life unfolds.
- I work smarter, not harder. My value isn't in how many hours I work, it is in what I do/build/create/accomplish. I take the time to plan my weeks, and I try (this is still a work in progress) to say "hell no" to as much as possible I can so that I can truly focus on the things that are "hell yeses!" This isn't exclusive to work, I apply this to all areas of my life.
Gwen Regan, Product Owner
Can you tell us about a time when you overcame a challenge or obstacle in your career, and how you did it?
“I was at a crossroads not too long ago in my career. I really wanted to move away from on-site property management but remain in affordable housing. I was given the opportunity to interview and land the job at the finance housing agency in my state. During this move, I was also 5 months pregnant with our third baby. I was scared. Another big change on top of everything else. I accepted the job and after the baby was born the company offered an infants in the workplace program. From about 6 weeks-6 months I brought my daughter to work. Some days were tough, but we grew together and I was able to support her and my career at the same time. Not only were the women in the office extremely helpful, the men were just as willing, if not more, to lend a hand. It was amazing to see and made the office full with laughter, like when she had a blow out in the middle of a meeting. Today, as I work remote with small children getting sick and daycare closing, never have I not felt supported by my leadership team. We are all juggling life, and support from other women leaders has made it so I can be a mom and have career without having to jeopardize one or the other”.
Tiffany Bergstrom, Head of Sales, SVP
In your opinion, what are some of the biggest challenges that women face in the workplace today?
I have been in sales now for close to 10 years and there were many rooms and tables I joined while being the only female leader or account executive. Sales, as well as real estate, is imbalanced with female representation in particular at the executive levels. Of the biggest challenges women face in the workplace include gender bias and discrimination, a lack of support for work-life balance // caregiving responsibilities + lack of representation in leadership or executive positions. These challenges can limit opportunities for advancement and make it difficult for women to balance personal and professional responsibilities. If it isn’t already, it should be a top company commitment to promoting diversity, equity and inclusion --- to build an inclusive workplace.
We are proud to support all of the women of Fortress as we continue to make progress towards true gender equality together.