Over the last few months, there’s been a new development at the National Association of Residential Property Managers (NARPM). The Women’s Leadership Council has been formed, and it’s growing. This group is still new and a work in progress, but their first event is coming up, and we asked Kellie Tollifson (NARPM President) and Chrissy Wade (Wellspring Property Management) to join us and talk about why this group is so necessary and what it aims to achieve.

Key Takeaways:

  • The Women’s Leadership Council is a group that was formed with the intention of providing women in property management with more confidence and strong public speaking skills
  • Kellie & Chrissy are hoping to eventually host quarterly events and make this organization a new committee at NARPM.
  • This is a new group that is in the process of growing and evolving. The founders’ goal is to make this group as inclusive as possible.
  • Their first event is “Elevate your Game & Take the Fear Out of Public Speaking” on November 12, 2020 at 11:00 a.m. PST and 2:00 pm. EST

Meeting a Need in Property Management Leadership

A woman speaks at a podium in front of an audience, representing the NARPM Women's Leadership Council's next event, which is aimed at providing public speaking skills to women in property managementWomen often don’t feel represented at industry events, and that’s not unique to the property management industry. When Chrissy began talking to other women about this, the response was incredible. She received a lot of feedback and private messages from women who wanted to do more and expressed a desire to be speakers at different events and conferences.

One of the problems that Chrissy ran into was that many of these women who wanted to speak, didn’t have a huge portfolio of past speaking engagements or leadership roles. So the first step seemed to be to prepare women for those public speaking engagements. Chrissy felt strongly about not putting an inexperienced woman on a major stage if she’s never had that experience.

So, Chrissy and Kellie began talking and recognized the interest in and importance of building confidence and developing public speaking skills for women in the property management industry. A lack of experience in public speaking is a huge barrier to leadership positions for women. The group’s first event is aimed at removing a lot of the fear and uncertainty about speaking in public and sharing your voice.

Encouraging Women to Speak Up

The first event is called Elevate your Game & Take the Fear Out of Public Speaking. The keynote speaker is Dr. Michelle Mazur, who runs Communication Rebel and has made a business out of developing speakers. She’s going to talk about removing a lot of the barriers that women feel, which will empower them to have their voices heard, whether that’s in the boardroom, in small group meetings, or in large conferences.

The banner for the NARPM Women's Leadership Council's first event, which is meant to give women in property management better public speaking skills

Participants will come away with tools to fortify their ability to speak up. Our society has set up and reinforced expectations of women that make it difficult for them to feel safe and confident speaking their mind. There will be practical tips on preparing to speak and accessing the confidence needed to move forward professionally and personally.

Historically, women haven’t been encouraged to speak up. Women have been raised for generations to be supportive and nurturing — and quiet. Women need the tools to trust themselves and navigate an industry that historically has favored men’s voices over women’s.

A lot of women in leadership know that one of the first steps in taking the initiative in the business world is accessing confidence in their own thoughts and ideas.

Communication is where everything starts.

Events like this will give women with diverse backgrounds extra tools and resources to lead them towards communication, leadership, and success.

Empowering Everyone to Do New Things

A woman speaks at a public eventThis event encourages participation from all genders. The panel will include men and women speakers and there is a broad spectrum of topics. The main goal of the event is to empower people to do something that they felt like they couldn’t do before.

The current working name is the Women’s Leadership Council, but this group isn’t only for women. The council was formed with the idea that every voice matters. It’s open to all genders.

The idea is that everyone can learn from one another and elevate the property management industry and each other. Anyone who wants to be a better business person is invited to participate.

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NARPM and The Women’s Leadership Council

The Executive Committee and Board of NARPM had been thinking about building roles for more women and putting together a group that focuses on women’s challenges and concerns when Chrissy approached the organization with this idea. In December, this concept will go to the Board of Directors and be proposed as a new committee at NARPM.

For the last few years, NARPM has been doing leadership training in local chapters. It’s a two-day event where chapter leaders come together and spend time talking about how to lead a local chapter. It’s been very effective, and developing leaders within NARPM has been an ongoing priority.

Kellie has been working to bring the Leadership University to NARPM, as a leadership series where people can develop their own skills. The Women’s Leadership Council fits into this beautifully. There are different purposes, missions, and visions, but talking about leadership issues unique to women is something that the entire NARPM leadership series can embrace.

Gender Obstacles in Property Management

A woman-presenting property manager shows prospective tenants a rental home.In addition to offering concrete tools and resources, this group aims to give women a chance to share the obstacles that they’ve overcome.

Kellie shared that she still has owners who prefer to talk to her husband instead of her. When Chrissy was managing a commercial building, she was fired because they thought a man could do it better. It’s inspired both of them to educate others about this type of bias in the industry and encourage other women to share their experiences.

Often, a woman’s expression of something is given a different label than a man’s expression of something, even when they are expressing the same thing. Women who are confident when they speak are often labeled ‘aggressive’ while confident men are labeled ‘assertive.’ Leveling the playing field starts with sharing these experiences and acknowledging the gender biases and prejudices at play. Learning to see and identify this kind of bias paves the way for dismantling it and creating a truly inclusive industry where every voice is heard.

Another obstacle is the way women have to carefully present their thoughts and opinions in the workplace in order to avoid the judgements coming from the gender biases we mentioned above. Women expressing too much emotion can be labeled as “hysterical” while expressing too little may come off as “cold.”

Kellie talked about feeling emotional during the awards ceremony at the recent NARPM convention. As she was giving out awards to people who had worked really hard, she kept telling herself not to cry. It felt embarrassing, but having feelings in a professional environment is okay. She spent a lot of time thinking about that, and then realized that most men probably wouldn’t spend that much time agonizing over a few minutes of human, emotional connection.

In order to “fit in” and succeed in a male-dominated industry like property management, women often feel forced to confine themselves to gender stereotypes and/or become “one of the boys.” Pigeon-holing women in this way is a detriment to the industry as a whole. It silences valuable insights, experience, and ideas that could propel the industry to new heights.

Being vulnerable, and bringing your whole self to the table, is a vital part of being a leader.

Inclusivity and Growing Diversity

A woman-presenting property manager shakes the hand of a tenant who has just signed a lease.Change is a slow process. It happens over time, and it requires intentional steps and education. The Women’s Leadership Council is brand new, but it’s already thinking about what it can do better.

For example, everyone on the panel at the upcoming event identifies as white. This isn’t by design, but it’s an outcome from working quickly to get people who were able to jump on board right away. Endless panels of white men and women is not where the group plans to go. Every voice matters, and incorporating women of color, people with disabilities, members of other genders and identities is a huge part of the future. There’s a strong desire to have a more diverse group.

One of the best ways to increase diversity is to spread the word. Chrissy and Kellie are asking everyone to talk to their business contacts and professional partners to grow this group.

The Call to Action here is pretty simple: Share your experience. Get involved.

If you ever felt like your voice didn’t matter, or it seemed like you weren’t represented in your industry, contact this council.

The first event is “Elevate your Game & Take the Fear Out of Public Speaking” on November 12, 2020 at 11:00 a.m. PST and 2:00 pm. EST. It’s free to NARPM members and $25 for anyone outside of NARPM who would like to join.

If you have any questions, contact us at Fourandhalf and we’ll put you in touch with the right people.

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