“You’re really gonna ask for a million bucks?”
I’d just spent fifteen minutes laying out my entire five year real estate investment portfolio across a conference table to a middle aged bank manager. He sat under a wall of black and white photos, head shots of the Board of Trustees. In his opening statement, he’d already informed me they were comprised of local business owners around this small town, and yes, I would need their votes to be granted any development loans. All were over sixty. All were men. He chuckled again, “a million dollars?”
Yes, I was. I am, asking for a million dollar loan for a three year multi phased rehab project. I thought I’d just shown him what a woman could do working twelve hour days. That I had yet to fail. That I’d continued to grow, adding assets to my portfolio year after consistent year. And yet he chuckled.
In the world of real estate investment, women are a rarity. According to a Fortune Magazine article from fall 2014, real estate is the “last male-dominated bastion of business.” Everyone I’ve worked with for the past five years have been male from contractors and their employees to capital investors, realtors, lenders, bankers, accountants, developers and attorneys. All on my speed dial. All people I spend my days working around and with. Sometimes tip toeing through minefields of misogyny.
“Look honey, I’ve been doing this for 35 years now” is quite often an opening line with contractors wanting to make it clear they’re in charge despite the fact I’m writing the check. Never do they take into consideration I might have been born into this business as well. Or that I might know a thing or two. Or might not care how long they’ve been doing this. Once they’ve fluffed their feathers by proclaiming their vast experience, I must begin to tiptoe through their pride to get the job done. Fortunately, I hold the cash. So it will be my final word but I still must be careful. Because you see if I do hire that man and then decide I want the plan different than his vast experience has taught him, well, guaranteed I will become a “fill in the blank female” also known as difficult, for simply wanting it done my way.
Which I do. Quite often.
In 2011, Frontiers magazine stated in an article titled “Male or Female,” that females use more of the frontal cortex of their brains, left to right. The part that handles intuitive thinking...in the case of residential real estate rehab and re-sales, I decide where to put the money on a complete overhaul. My intuition tells me building A needs to highlight the kitchen and corner sink looking over the river. Building B, the upstairs bathroom. I must decide what buyers are going to focus on. Therefore, I will change the budget to accommodate what I think they will want. A male generically uses the backside of his brain, the large motor skills area. The doing part. Movement. Which means if he’s started on trim on the main floor, he’ll hyper focus all the way through without integrating other sub contractors along the way. A male’s largest weakness is scientifically called “integrative analysis” but the rest of us call it multi tasking.
Hence where the communication part breaks down between women and men so quickly. Big pictures, little pictures. I am in charge of a budget, a team of people, a one year and five year goal, and I must keep my eye on all facets...at all times. Men traditionally see an end result which is usually a financial gain in my business. Just like the guy telling me he’s an expert in his field after 35 years, he’s also telling me he has one goal in mind, his, which will get the job done. It’s supposed to make me feel confident. Which he thinks is my point. His pride and his large motor skills all believe my goal is to expertly get “his” job done. His large motor skills are apt not to take into consideration my accountant’s desire for his receipt to be written with all licenses listed, my investor’s desire to see my budget clean or my lender’s desire to have this house sold by May 1st. Those would be considered big picture, the multi tasking part. I have learned through experience, if I explain to a painter they must wait for cabinets to go in first because of the overall schedule, I go from being a female “boss lady” to a “whiney feminist” wanting everything done HER way...in about two seconds.
So I have resigned myself to live in this arena. Temporarily. While women make large strides into this last bastion. Until my portfolio is large enough to deem me worthy of notice, of an ounce of respect. I will use all my integrative analysis skills daily to step forward into territories unknown. Analyzing each man as they come along deciding if they can respect my will while cashing my checks. And I will play their game, their way, for now.
“Yes, I am asking for a million dollars to rehab this portfolio. I’ll return your loan on a 12% for 36 months which I’ve done forty two times. Successfully. Your investors can sit confidently I will come in on budget while sitting with 40% reserves. Basically, the bottom line is this, my loan will make your bank a pile of cash!”
Diana Kirk is the author of Licking Flames: Tales of a Half-Assed Hussy. Her essays and interviews have been published in Nailed, Thought Catalog and Five 2 One magazine. She lives on the Pacific coast of the U.S. with her husband and three boys running a real estate investment company.
You can find Diana on her website here.
You'll also be able to enjoy more of her writing at The Psychology of It as we're excited she'll be joining our team as a regular contributor this year!
Welcome aboard Diana!
If you've had any experiences with inequality or have even just noticed any differences in the ways men and women use their brains, we'd love to hear from you. As always, thank you for reading us and if you like what you read, share it with your friends. And if you haven't already, make sure you subscribe to us on our homepage.