Connect with us

Opinion Editorials

Ladies, it’s about time you got on your knees, now where’s my coffee?

Some people believe that sexism is a thing of the past, but it is sadly alive and thriving in some boardrooms in America. Here is an outline of how it still plays out and how women can react.



misogyny in real estate

A young woman in an executive meeting

I was wearing a black pant suit from Ann Taylor petites and a teal button up shirt starched within an inch of its life. I was the second to be seated and organized my contracts in my leather bound holder as seven grey haired men filed in, one by one. One made a comment about the Texas heat and about how far outside of town our corporate offices were but how beautiful it was. I sipped water from a short tumbler glass and was the only one using a coaster.

The board room was in the front of the main building and was completely glass walled, making skirts nearly impossible for me, thus pant suits. I was 21 and because of my young career accolades and achievements in education, I was head hunted sight unseen as the marketing director for a medium sized commercial real estate developer. I was the only woman in the entire company with a private office, the only in executive meetings, made more than double any other lady in the organization and had a female assistant.

In this meeting in my teal shirt, as we waited for the client, the President of the company said, “sweetheart, can you grab me some coffee?” Coffee? I quickly weighed my options- politely get coffee and deal with it later as most Southern gals would, stand up and walk out to pack my office, or hold my ground.

“Coffee? Really? I’m sitting at the same table with you, you’re barking up the wrong tree, princess.” I attempted a smile and held it.

My heart raced and in a quarter of a second, my career flashed before my eyes. Well, at least I would be leaving on a high note that would make for a great story for my future children. He smiled, hesitated, said, “okay then,” walking out of the room for his own coffee.

I stood my ground but I knew the risk would be that I would have a “bitch” reputation. It is confusing for women in the corporate world because you’re supposedly hired based on the merits of your qualifications, you sit at the same table with hundreds of men, yet are asked for coffee or thought of as a bitch- neither of which indicates respect.

My tolerance for jokes is high

I’m a native Texan, I love southern culture. I am laid back, silly, sometimes crude, and always southern- we don’t insult you behind your back down here, we smile and say it to your face.

I was born in the 80s and from a generation of rap enthusiasts and epithet abusers, I’ve even given a very popular Ignite presentation on curse words. My generation calls our friends “bitch” and “skank” and it doesn’t mean much. I’m not easily offended by much of anything and my threshold for cuss words and crude jokes is very high.

My tolerance for direct insults that strike at the core of my abilities as a professional, however, is extremely low.

It isn’t a thing of the past

Since The American Genius was founded, we’ve been asked to be part of many projects and companies, and we are very protective with our brand and rarely lend our name to anything outside of our own company, so when we do, it is a major endorsement.

One fall, we flew out to California for a board room meeting for a new company we were joining as leadership. The room was small and there were only six of us (including me and Benn). We were all tired for our own reasons, but there was an air of excitement in the air because this idea Benn started had come to fruition, had a little bit of funding, and now all we had to do was finish the product.

The air felt electric and enthusiasm was high, but it was deflated in an instant when a beloved male figure in this real estate web space that a lot of people including me looked up to said, “it’s about time you got on your knees” as I plugged in my laptop at his feet underneath the table.

Screeching halt.

Remember, I’m not easily offended, I love cussing and dirty jokes are awesome, but this was crushing. Shattering. How could someone everyone loves so much be so cruel? He revealed he had no respect for me (nor my husband). This time, I didn’t stand up, I sat down because it hurt more than some sexist Texan idiot. This was someone who is supposedly progressive, someone we had talked to for almost every day over the previous year.

It all became clear when later on that day while discussing the company’s Advisory Board, I was asked, “hey do you know any black women in real estate? We probably also need an Asian guy, who do you know?” Oh. Silently, I realized that I was invited to sit at the table because I fit some checklist of demographics. How shallow and ignorant. I thought my expertise and merit brought me to the table, but it was my tits. Needless to say, our relationship ended that day with all individuals of the startup. We left that night and never looked back.

Politics reveals sexism is alive and well

Mysogyny is common in politics, women don’t exactly have it easy in the world of public scrutiny. When Hillary Clinton ran for office, people talked about her pant suits. Her PANT SUITS! Who the hell cares about her fashion? But she was chastised for her outfits while fat old white guys wore paisley ties, shiny black belts, brown pants and blue shoes without a second thought- they were there for business, don’t look at their clothes, right?

Women on women mysogyny is common as well. Remember when Democratic Representative Janis Baird Sontany of Nashville said regarding her female Republican colleagues, “You have to lift their skirts to find out if they are women. You sure can’t find out by how they vote.”

Bill Maher is under fire currently not for constant berating of former Alaskan Governor Sarah Palin and calling her stupid (which honestly is kind of funny sometimes), but for calling her a “c***,” possibly the most offensive word in the American lexicon. Using the word at a bar when you’re shoved by a drunk chick is far different than using it on national television (if that’s what you’d call HBO). How disgusting.

Maher gets a pass because he’s liberal, so that must mean he’s sensitive to women’s lib, right? False. Gross. Sick. That word is culturally unaccaptable, even if you’re a comedian. UPDATE: I have been told the word he chose started with a T and rhymes with clot, yet other reports say it starts with a C and rhymes with blunt, both of which are equally offensive in modern culture.

It isn’t just women politicians, it’s women in real estate

I recently called out an old school trainer for his fundamental misunderstanding about social media which resulted in a lengthy offline discussion with the trainer. He left an anonymous comment on our site referring to me as a “professional tweeter,” and used a tone as if I was a pig-tail wearing toddler who needed my lollipop taken away, not a seasoned marketer and Editor-in-chief at one of the largest digital publications in the industry.

In this situation, he looked a lot like the ridiculous Texan who demanded coffee.

The sexist nature of the industry is nothing new. It’s older than the inception of selling a house. NAR and NAHB were founded by older white guys, are run by older white guys and both act like an old white guy. “Go get me coffee, inferior person.” News organizations behave the same way- I was offered $35k to join up while my male counterpart would be making more… sorry, guys, my current income has the comma in a different place.

Women are defiminized in this space, even by other women- you go to a women’s organization or club within the industry and see if attendees aren’t catty about what other women are wearing. Really? You’re going to act like that too? You can’t get upset that you’re not the CEO if you GIVE permission to men to continue their current thought pattern, you’re proving them right.

Women have to be outrageous to lead in this industry. One growing brokerage comes to mind, led by an extremely intelligent woman, but she has to wear the hottest pink jacket on the market and Prada shoes to get attention. She has to get on stage and poo poo tradition to be seen. It shouldn’t be that way.

Where are all the women?

Of the 12 largest real estate brokerages in America, only one has a female CEO and even then, the Chairman of the Board is male. Century 21, Coldwell Banker, Keller Williams, Prudential, Weichart, Realty World, ERA, Exit, Realty Executives, Sotheby’s and Windermere all have older white male CEOs. It doesn’t stop there, look to Trulia, Zillow, Move, Inc., HotPads and others. That’s not their fault and they certainly shouldn’t invite a woman simply because they need a girl (or black woman or Asian guy). I wonder how many times RE/MAX CEO Margaret Kelly has been called a bitch for being a leader or asked to get coffee and declined?

Even awards lists are missing women, but where are the women leaders? I was recently named as one of the Top 100 Most Influential Real Estate Leaders and I got a flood of emails that praised me for being a female leader. I was disappointed that that was what people chose to focus on- my being a default feminist because I was on a list, rather than congratulations for being accomplished. Only 11 other women were on that list, and the award was chastised for being sexist, but I have to ask again, where are all the women in leadership roles? Are too many women scared of being called a bitch and just stick to gender-appropriate roles? What a waste.

Becoming a default feminist

The truth is, I get along best with men. I’m scrappy and kind of a smart alec, and that works for me. I grew up as one of the boys, I like sports, and I drink beer, but I love skirts, jewelry and home magazines too.

Because of the stand I’m taking today against sexism in the real estate industry, I’ll be labeled a feminist, a Code Pinker. I’ll be a default feminist and called upon to speak at conferences about the disparity in the industry between men and women.

That’s too bad, I don’t actually support most feminist groups, they’re more hippie than my Texan flavor cares for (I think the term is often abused and used as an excuse to complain). I believe in every American worker forging their own way DESPITE any obstacle. Despite the guy asking for coffee, despite the HR director calling you “babe” or “sweetheart,” or a real estate industry leader calls you “nothing more than a hot wife.” Life is a challenge, and we teach our daughter how to deal with all challenges rather than cry foul when they’re asked to fetch coffee.

I make my stand by calling my highest superior “princess” and smiling rather than complaining, but what can the women in real estate do to take their stand? The two best ways are to stand firm and dish it out, even if you’re called a bitch, and to get revenge by succeeding and rising above.

Ladies, let men think they’re the head, but as My Big Fat Greek Wedding teaches us, you can be the neck that controls where the head turns.

Rest in peace, Geraldine Ferraro. Thank you for inspiring us all.

Lani is the Chief Operating Officer at The American Genius and has been named in the Inman 100 Most Influential Real Estate Leaders several times, co-authored a book, co-founded BASHH and Austin Digital Jobs, and is a seasoned business writer and editorialist with a penchant for the irreverent.

Continue Reading


  1. Felicia Adams

    March 26, 2011 at 7:43 pm

    Lani, I have had some of the same experiences as you in the RE industry. I worked for a builder and was not only asked to make/bring the coffee, but also expected to bring in the paper! I was their marketing dept! About the coffee: I told them, “thanks, but I don’t need any right now, so I am not going to make it.” About the paper: “I don’t take the paper so I have no way to bring it in.” Everyone was uncomfortable and then it passed. Another female employee ended up taking over where I refused on both things. I was sad for her. Those were the two most blatant things that happened to me in that job, but there were many, many more less obvious sexist “rules” at the company. I was their one weird liberal employee and so they sort of expected that I was going to be trouble. The job was optional to me at the time so I didn’t mind causing waves. I feel for all the women there and at other places like that who can’t lose their jobs and so they stay silent. It seems crazy to me that this still goes on, but I’ve seen it in other industries as well. (I’m talking to you, venture capitalist companies)

    One of the many reasons I adore you, Lani, is your scrappy fun personality that also can reflect deep personal values, extreme professionalism/knowledge, and a big heart (I won’t tell anyone). 🙂 I hate that we as women are compartmentalized into categories of feminists, liberal, conservative, SAHM, working mom, etc. We are all so many of these things all at once and we are all so much more. Others need to quit putting us in a box and quit asking us to get the freakin coffee!!!

    • Lani Rosales

      March 26, 2011 at 9:14 pm

      Felicia, that’s one of the cornerstones of being able to stand up- the willingness to risk your career and for many, that is just too much to ask. Thus the situation our nation remains in. Sad.

  2. Melissa Zavala

    March 26, 2011 at 7:52 pm

    Lani: When you made the hundred most influential list, I didn’t realize that there were only 11 women. I was more awestruck because of how much you have achieved thus far. Even the most influential women are likely struggling to balance it all, yet somehow they are still expected to serve the coffee, wash the boxers, and prepare Sunday dinner (unless, of course, they have money to pay someone to do it for them). Like so many other women (including you), Geraldine Ferraro was and still is an amazing role model.

    As far as real estate goes, I guess we just need to continue to demonstrate how amazing we are. I know that I always fly under the radar, but then blow most of the locals out of the water when they aren’t even looking. It’s not about tooting your own horn; it’s just about doing, and about doing so with passion.

    • Lani Rosales

      March 26, 2011 at 9:17 pm

      Melissa, your last line sums it up perfectly. Thank you so much for your compliments, I’m a little overwhelmed as we reached out to YOU because of YOUR accomplishments and how well respected you are in the industry.

      Keep flying under that radar, friend. 🙂

  3. Harold Cook

    March 26, 2011 at 8:04 pm

    This is absolutely brilliant.

    • Lani Rosales

      March 26, 2011 at 9:19 pm

      Thank you, Harold- coming from you, that means a lot!

  4. Amanda Quraishi

    March 26, 2011 at 8:08 pm

    I hear a lot about women in other parts of the world being treated like second-class citizens, but the fact is–IN EVERY SOCIETY, INCLUDING THIS ONE–the subjugation of women is so deeply ingrained that people don’t even THINK about it. Our society really thinks that we are somehow advanced–when women have barely been able to vote here for the last hundred years. Even freed male slaves got the vote before we did. On top of that, the dynamics between men and women remain such that it is the woman that does most of the domestic work, regardless of whether she is gainfully employed. And of course, the wage disparity between the sexes is well documented. Add to that the objectification of women in advertising, media, and “art” (also well documented) and it adds up to this: Women have come a long way in gaining equal rights–and equal respect. But we still have a long way to go.

    I’m sorry, Lani. You’re one of the hardest-working, most ambitious, most driven women I know–and that’s what makes it even more pathetic that someone would choose to judge you on your gender rather than on your abilities.

    • Lani Rosales

      March 26, 2011 at 9:22 pm

      Q, the irony is that I have a high tolerance for what some call objectification– I don’t have a problem with bikini models in videos or music video dancers and I don’t care about my girlfriends saying “bitch,” so when it goes beyond that to a disgusting point, it has nothing to do with sexuality, it has more to do with a blatant unwillingness to return respect.

      Thank you for your compliments!!

      PS: I’m so sorry I missed the Taco Party, I thought today was Friday…

  5. Paula Henry

    March 26, 2011 at 8:49 pm

    Lani – I’m certain you have hit a nerve with many professional women, not only those of us in real estate. Having personally gone up against the stiff coats who sit in board rooms, unable to look outside their neatly designed ideas – I firmly believe, there are more of them than they would even like to admit to.

    One thing I loathe is sitting at a table with men and a nice looking woman walks by and they comment about how well she’s built or they would like to take that home with them. Yes, I have actually heard this. It’s the lowest form of insult.

    I don’t consider myself a feminist; not even close. I love my family, I cooked, cleaned and took care of our home and family. Not because it was what was expected; it was what I wanted to do, but I get to choose if I want to bring you coffee. If I do, it’s because you’ve earned my respect or it is simply a nice gesture or I love you. Get on my knees – you can forget that one! I can’t believe you didn’t let him have it right there and then, but of course, you are Lani and you have more class than that. You let him know there would be no deal.

    In my opinion, men who behave like this have a huge inferiority complex, fed by a fragile ego and they have to demean others to make themselves feel superior.

    • Lani Rosales

      March 26, 2011 at 9:24 pm

      Paula, you’re right on. Ego has everything to do with it and many women think it’s a self assured ego, but it’s typically the least secure that are the most misogynistic. What many don’t understand is that feminism is simply a movement to point out that women should CHOOSE just as you choose to take care of your family as do I.

      Thank you for taking the time to comment, I know that your career is so wildly successful that you’re super busy, strong gal! 🙂

  6. Frances Flynn Thorsen

    March 26, 2011 at 8:51 pm

    More than 40 years have elapsed since I met Betty Friedan and Gloria Steinem in New York and feminist activists offered the promise of change.

    I am dismayed to read the lament of an accomplished young woman that sounds so similar to the stories of women in so many generations who preceded her.

    Have women made significant advances in industry? Assuredly so!

    Still, sexism is rampant in the real estate industry and women executives still receive less compensation than their male counterparts despite the fact that women outnumber men in the sales ranks.

    I cannot fathom that a woman emcee must dance on a stage at technology conferences before engaging her audience with serious, salient discussion of Internet trends and best practices. There is no corresponding offer of beefcake on the same stage.

    I am inclined to think the testosterone/estrogen imbalance is a major factor of the national housing crisis.

    Sexism in real estate and in the real estate social space is a matter of serious private discussion in the last month. I’m impressed with this article and I admire the honesty and the courage attached to publication here.

    In the last month I’ve been called a bitch, a bully, and a bulldog. Methinks the is choking on an overdose of testosterone.

    I think this article marks a seminal moment at AgentGenius.


    • Lani Rosales

      March 26, 2011 at 9:31 pm

      Frances, few people have insight into the inner workings of this sector and even fewer understand all of the moving parts, and I think that recent events point a more obvious divide.

      Seminal moment? Wow, that’s a huge compliment, thank you Frances.

  7. Claire

    March 26, 2011 at 9:14 pm


    I am on my knees! But in thanks to you for being brave enough to write this. I quit worrying about being a bitch a long time ago. I had to. I knew, as you all know that my behavior/comments/attitude was not bitchy – it was the same as all the (usually better paid) pasty white guys sitting around the same table with me – the difference was my behavior/comments/attitude came with a uterus.

    I have had to joke recently about my need to create a new Twitter account called My Hysterical Uterus to give my uterus a voice. My uterus is fed up with the all too frequent characterization that my Hysterical Uterus somehow brings unecessary drama to the dialogue. ‘Cuz you know what? You need my “drama”. And I’d rather be a Hysterical Uterus than just a plain old dick any day. So there.

    And you are absolutely right. The only way without your Hystericla Uterus taking over and telling them just what you think is to stand firm and dish it out, albeit politely and respectfully, even if you’re called a bitch. And it goes without saying I fully intend to get my revenge by succeeding and rising above. I do it everyday.

    Finally Fabulous Ladies of Real Estate, I give you one of my favorite songs. An old tune – Belafonte, Baez and enumerable jazz bands in New Orleans all play it. Of course being a Texan AND a hippie, I love the Grateful Dead verison. But here I found the most vanilla version ever – peformed by the Carpenters of all people – Man Smart, Woman Smarter:

    • Lani Rosales

      March 26, 2011 at 9:35 pm

      That video is FANTASTIC! 🙂 I hate that tits play such a huge role in respect levels. I could have sworn this is 2011 and what is most ridiculous is that a super hippie and a Republican Texan can agree on the topic. 😉

      Looking forward to your psycho twitter handle….

  8. Kristal Kraft

    March 26, 2011 at 9:20 pm

    As a females I think we all have our stories of frustration for being treated as a 2nd class citizen. I can remember more than once I had to defer to a male as I was “a broker’s wife” when I first started in the real estate business.

    Like you it made me very angry. I managed to channel that anger into positive energy. I look back at my success and realize it was my attitude of “watch this, I’ll show you!” that helped my drive. I far surpassed the male turkeys and enjoyed every minute of it!

    Sexism still exists today, but it’s nothing like it once was. I do believe we have come a long way. Proof is found be comparing my sons who cook and take care of their kids to my father who wouldn’t have been caught dead “doing woman’s work!” LOL. I pity the poor confused men in the middle (like my dearly departed ex) who wanted to be like Dad, but was forced to change with the times.

    My parents had very defined roles, Dad brought home the bacon Mom cooked it. Today’s roles have changed in so many ways, sometimes before we can get used to it.

    Next time some dude asks you to get him coffee just smile and ask if he was planning on wearing it…

    • Lani Rosales

      March 26, 2011 at 9:38 pm

      Kristal, you’re right, we are NOT in the same place as even 20 years ago, so I suppose it is why it stands out so starkly now. I don’t have any problem with the Dad-bacon model, I actually prefer that in my personal life, but in my professional life, there is no use for that division, like you noted.

      My internal monologue about getting coffee involved the word enema… I’ll leave it at that. 🙂

  9. BawldGuy

    March 26, 2011 at 9:20 pm

    Lani is a truly strong woman. Most women in real estate who are actually strong, produce results, do their thing, and don’t complain about gender inequality. They’re too busy depositing checks anyway. There are those who do, and those who blame gender when they can’t do. Real estate is an equal opportunity club, ladies. I’ve been watchin’ since the mid-1960s, and the women who succeeded then are not much different than those who do now — with one exception.

    They did a lot less whining. Oh, and they got the coffee — when it was their turn.

    • Lani Rosales

      March 26, 2011 at 9:40 pm

      Jeff, you’re exactly right. The women here that have commented, I believe, are in the class of “do something about it, don’t complain” strong women. I love hearing about your upbringing, especially the Chiefs you came up with!

      Thank you for taking the time today to chat with me about this and forming a comment here. You and Benn and I make jokes, even bad jokes, but you have never and would never insult my professionalism or capabilities and I thank you for that. (For those that don’t know, we’ve worked with Jeff in a professional capacity before, it was seamless.)

  10. Ilene Haddad

    March 26, 2011 at 9:35 pm

    Very interesting article, Lani, and so sad you had to write it. I’m more of the Ms. Magazine, hippie feminist type, but fortunately I haven’t run into the kind of sexism you described in your industry. I’d like to think I would be as strong as you are if faced with similar ignorance. I admire your choices and hope more young women are brave enough to take action when necessary.

    • Lani Rosales

      March 26, 2011 at 9:47 pm

      Ilene, I’m so glad you haven’t been through it- insanely enough, these are just three of my many anecdotes. It was prevalent in marketing as it is in real estate and women often are scared to speak up. Thanks for taking the time to comment!

    • Lani Rosales

      March 26, 2011 at 10:15 pm

      Alan, you’re right, KW is female heavy as are several others, yet the driver’s seat is still occupied by a male. I will say that if I were to predict which company would produce the next female CEO, I would point to KW.

      • Benjamin Bach

        March 27, 2011 at 5:59 pm

        Mo Anderson was CEO of KW for about a decade, I believe, and she was one of the main forces driving our growth (and still is)

  11. Juan Carlos

    March 26, 2011 at 10:06 pm

    Finally had a chance to read this. It’s appalling the things women let themselves be pit through. I’ve worked on places where the women are hired based solely on their looks…. most play the stupid game and are still there, fetching coffee so that the management can check out their asses as they walk away.

    I think some of them don’t even realize that that’s not their role!!!

    • Lani Rosales

      March 26, 2011 at 10:16 pm

      Carlos, I think you’re right and in other industries (like entertainment), women almost feel as if it is their PLACE to take those roles. Good points.

  12. Joe Manausa

    March 26, 2011 at 10:13 pm

    Wow Lani, what a great read. My Mom would have beat me silly if I treated another woman (person actually) the way you were treated. You handled yourself admirably.

    • Lani Rosales

      March 26, 2011 at 10:17 pm

      Joe, thank you. It will be interesting to see how *my* mom reacts when she reads this…

  13. Michael Bull

    March 26, 2011 at 10:18 pm

    Women are among the most successful commercial real estate brokers in Atlanta and in my office. Great article!

    • Lani Rosales

      March 26, 2011 at 11:17 pm

      That is GREAT to hear, Michael, and even greater that you’re enthusiastic about it!

  14. Nanette Labastida

    March 26, 2011 at 10:26 pm

    yeah lani! really great post. and boy am i glad i work with a bunch of gay men, i’m just one of the girls 🙂
    But get this, when i asked my plastic surgeon what size implants i should get after my mastectomy, he said “well how many houses do you wanna sell” – we have a funny raport so i really wasn’t offended, but it does show you how people see women & real estate. I’ve also had “jokey” comments about the little black dress & pumps to sell sell sell.
    and i have definitely felt the condescending tone from a few male realtors during negotiation, especially if it has to do with construction/remodel stuff.

    i have to say though, i am not offended by Bill & the c word.

    • Lani Rosales

      March 26, 2011 at 10:55 pm

      Nan, in the context, I am offended, and you know me personally (as I you), so gals like us aren’t usually offended, even by that word, but he didn’t mean it in a playful way like I would be okay with.

      Regardless, your surgeon playfully pointed to a common mentality that sex sells, but people like you and those who have commented here prove that sharp negotiation, hard work and not caring if you’re called a bitch for succeeding- those are the things that put women in the driver’s seat.

      • Nanette Labastida

        March 26, 2011 at 11:14 pm

        i understand about the bill maher comment, i did not hear it or about it. unecessary for sure.

        thanks for including me in that category 🙂

  15. Dori Lacamu

    March 26, 2011 at 11:09 pm

    Love this post! To my knowledge I have never read a post of yours before but I will definitely be making a change. It is so refreshing to see a post like this from someone born at least a decade after me. Thank you from a fellow Texan!

    • Lani Rosales

      March 26, 2011 at 11:18 pm

      Dori, thank you for your compliments and for stopping by- you know what it’s like to be in Texas, it’s an extra challenge for sure! I look forward to learning about your journey!

  16. Ken Brand

    March 26, 2011 at 11:26 pm

    Thanks for sharing this important piece.

  17. Joe Sheehan

    March 27, 2011 at 8:10 am

    Extraordinary editorial, Lani. Thanks for writing it. Misogyny is as offensive to me as to most but certainly not nearly as hurtful as to the victims. I actually cringed as I read some of your descriptions.

    This is a very important piece that should be read by all men. Hopefully some of the troglodytes among us will become just a little more sensitive to the pain they cause.

    • Lani Rosales

      March 27, 2011 at 10:33 am

      Joe, I can’t fault how someone was raised and what is inherent in their behavior, but CAN ask the generations that accept it as par for the course to at least FAKE not thinking that women are stupid and inferior. Thank you for being one of the men who won’t tolerate sexism, Joe!

  18. Melanie

    March 27, 2011 at 8:49 am

    Bravo Lani and I think Gerry would have liked this too-a fitting tribute.

    It saddens me that we have not made more progress on this front. As a young lawyer I had similar experiences to yours. I was one of three women in a mid-sized law firm in California who’s practice included prosecuting sex discrimination and sexual harassment suits. Despite this, I was subject to all kinds of ridiculous conduct from partners and clients alike. When I reported the conduct-I was labeled a trouble maker and dismissed. Even more regretful is that the senior woman in the firm–viewed me as a threat because I was getting more “attention.”

    Now that I’m older and wiser (I hope) I really don’t care about being labeled a bitch or a trouble maker and when given the chance to mentor young women…I try to teach them to trust their judgments and hold their ground. I’d like to think I’ve helped one or two young women navigate the workplace gender waters with less turbulence than I experienced. I think that sadly it is up to us women and possibly a few sensitive men with daughters to make the changes that still need to happen.

    Thanks for starting this important discussion Lani. RIP Geraldine Ferraro.

    • Lani Rosales

      March 27, 2011 at 10:36 am

      Mel, I would assume that in law it is still rampant given that part of the practice revolves around pee contests. That must have been tough. I was one of the lucky ones who if I stood my ground had a husband to come home to that had I wanted to quit or mouth off, he would have supported me emotionally and of course financially while I looked elsewhere. Most women don’t have the option to call a boss “princess” at the beginning of a career.

      Thank you for being a mentor to women around you!! 🙂

  19. Mark

    March 27, 2011 at 11:44 am

    Now, I do have the deepest respect for you and your writing style. I struggle with the ability to create meaningful prose. To educate while entertain. But, I personally take umbrage to you wailing on the “old white guy”.

    I am an old white guy. It seems as though we are labeled the ‘bad guys’ nowadays. Let’s blame all of our woes on the old white guy. Believe me when I say I also respect your marketing skills in attracting an audience of your choosing with emotional trigger story selling.

    But still, ‘old white guy’….really? Now youve gone and hurt my feelings. I guess I’m gonna have to go and get my own coffee while I read this month’s issue of Playboy.

    • Lani Rosales

      March 27, 2011 at 12:03 pm

      Hey Mark, I totally understand. I struggled with using the term because as I mentioned above, I think the “old white guys” complaint is crap (and I don’t think my old white guy dad would appreciate it). I think you missed that I wrote that it is up to women to push their way into a seat at the table (like all employees fighting for a job) rather than point to “old white guys” and that we are teaching our daughter not to pout and blame “old white guys,” rather stand up or make a choice and deal with life challenges.

      Additionally, I come from a long line of old white guys who I dearly love and respect, I get along best with old white guys, and as I said, I think it is up to women to call their old white guy boss “princess” and refuse coffee and up to “old white guys” not to sit around the board room table and ask if I know an Asian guy. But enjoy your Playboy, I hear they have great articles. 🙂

  20. Jay Papasan

    March 27, 2011 at 12:55 pm


    Thanks for the heartfelt reminder of how far we still have to go. Before joining KWRI I worked at HarperCollins Publishers, one of the few major publishers run by a female CEO Jane Friedman ( ) a true pioneer who resigned in 2008 to be replaced by, you guessed it, a dude. No knock on Brian Murray’s considerable merits but the trend continues.

    Like real estate, publishing was dominated by women in important decision making positions but largely run by men. I was pretty naive frankly before working with Mia Hamm on her biography and following her and her pioneering teammates — Julie Foudy, Kristine Lilly, Brandi Chastain, et al — for two years through their amazing 1999 World Cup victory. As these women tried to claim a space in the dominant world sport they faced appalling sexism at every turn. Sports announcers would talk at length about Mia’s shampoo commercial hair instead of her ownership of the international scoring record for men and women. Hundreds of thousands of adolescent girls packed stadiums and filled them with ear-crushing screams of support. Mia and her teammates would literally require IV drips after a game and would then emerge to sign autographs for hours. Their mission was clear — to blaze a trail for these young girls dreams, to make the path a little easier for the rest. And to do it based on merit alone.

    Every arena, from books, to soccer, to real estate, needs leaders to point to the destination and underscore how far we have yet to go. I want far more for my wife and my daughter. Thanks for writing this. I’m hopeful that it instill a sense of purpose in people and maybe inspires everyone to do better on a day to day basis instead of just paying lip service to equal opportunity.

    Jay P.

    PS — Thanks for the kind words about KW in the comments. After 1999, I wouldn’t still be there if I didn’t think we were part of the solution.

    • Lani Rosales

      March 27, 2011 at 1:11 pm

      Jay, I do believe you’re part of the solution rather than the problem. I think all brokerages have made huge strides at the executive level, and it is beyond that which we have to look at now as we consider the next leaders in the CEO roles.

      Female sports figures (besides tennis) really have it the worst- they are demeaned simply for choosing a “masculine” station in life, whether they are talented or not.

      The issue I take is that real estate is filled with far more women than men, yet so few are in the driver’s CEO seat unless they branch out on their own. That is where there is the most room for change at all brokerages. Thank you for thinking of your own daughter, Jay!

  21. Genevieve

    March 27, 2011 at 12:56 pm

    You always seem to hit the nail on the head; whether your telling your own personal story or the one that rings true for so many of us. This is powerful stuff, and I am right there with you trying to help pave the way.
    I honestly feel like I saw this a lot more in the good ole’ boys network of Commercial Real Estate and Commercial Development when I first got started in my career as well. I say this because when I have my residential real estate hat on, everything is peachy-keen… but when I’m out on new construction job sites in my cowboy boots and a hard-hat right along side the gentlemen and one of them calls me “sugar, darlin’ honey or sweetie”… I notice the gender-role “discomfort zone”- they all really want me to be in an office fetching them coffee, donuts and xeroxing til the cows come home; however, I will generally dish it right back out by scaring them half to death – meaning: knowing more than they do about their own craft- which is fun for me… I think that many of the men that I work with up in the DC Metro area are starting to realize that women of our generation aren’t afraid to get out there and create change that “Rosie Riveter’s” set forth for us… We just need to keep on keepin’ on and create the change and do not allow for others men or women who try to stifle us to stand in our way.

    • Lani Rosales

      March 27, 2011 at 1:20 pm

      G, I think you were in Ms. Maxey’s 6th grade English class with me, right? We sat on the floor in a circle to read our final papers and I remember my throat closing up as it came time to read mine. It was called “True Lies” and it was about a woman who lost her true love to war (long before Avi’s “True Lies” novel or the dumb movie). Several people, including Ms. Maxey were choked up and Marcus giggled and when she asked why Marcus was laughing, he said “she writes like a girl” which the guys laughed at. I remember her slowly standing up, her crinkled skirt becoming the loudest thing in the room, their smirks faded, and she said, “her writing is beautiful. You are closed minded and are destined to a life of demeaning women. I feel sorry for you.” She sadly went back to her desk knowing that a misogynist was in her midst.

      Little did she, Marcus, or the class know that because our final story had a lag of several weeks between turning them in and reading them, I had submitted mine to a literary magazine and been published. I never shared that with them, I just relished in her defending me and I understand it so much more deeply today.

      G, our paths have been so similar. When we sipped tea from red and blue pots recently, I was struck by that. The Steeping Room was so loud and there were people everywhere, but I felt our paths had paralleled so closely for decades without our knowing. Because of that, I know that you have experienced the construction mentality that I have and the sad part is that it exists in residential sales just as much, but is hidden and only seeps out in quiet ways because men’s social graces are better in residential.

      We have a long way to go…

      • Genevieve

        March 27, 2011 at 2:31 pm

        High five sista-friend! I totally remember that day in Ms. Maxey’s Class… I randomly see Marcus/Brody’s FB posts: take note that it is the same old-same old. You know the Deep-Texas drill. We’ll see each other more, and our paths will surely intersect again. SOON!

  22. Benn Rosales

    March 27, 2011 at 1:21 pm

    I checked my man card at the door, and am waving the white boxers.

    Having known these stories in advance of this article, I’m really surprised at how much I’ve learned from reading them here along with the comments.

    I’m guilty of the same things, things I think are funny or innocent can be so demeaning and for that ignorance I’m truly sorry. Having said that, it’s pretty obvious we have a long way to go, personally and as a society but I think there is a will as it’s virtually impossible to ignore raw talent in this space and others regardless of gender or race. We can be better, and so can I.

    Lani, would you like anything from the kitchen? 🙂

    • Lani Rosales

      March 27, 2011 at 1:25 pm

      We can all do better. Most definitely. But what most people don’t know about you is that for years, your employ has been almost all women, so for that we thank you. And I know that when you decide to name the next generation leader it will most likely be a woman, given your track record. I’ve always considered you progressive which is why it is comfortable for me to write this article in the first place. Like I’ve said in comments, I am one of the few lucky ones with a husband that would never in a million years tolerate someone demeaning me.

      Thank you for being willing to be the one pregnant and in the kitchen 😉

  23. John Perkins

    March 27, 2011 at 1:34 pm

    Brilliant writing! I will be sharing this with my 14 & 17 y/o daughters and anyone on Facebook. “My tolerance for direct insults that strike at the core of my abilities as a professional, however, is extremely low.” Great way to finish that first section and then continue on to say some extremely important facts. This needs to be shared.

    • Lani Rosales

      March 27, 2011 at 1:37 pm

      Thank you so much, John- I hope your daughters can learn from it as ours has!

  24. Michelle Greer

    March 27, 2011 at 7:21 pm

    What’s sad is that men often want women in the workplace too. We know what we know and what we don’t and tend to be guided by our conscious rather than our personal ambition.

    I experienced exactly what you experienced in California. An angel I pitched literally asked me if i wanted to have a one night stand. Who even says that term anymore?

    I don’t know what the answer is. I just find the whole debate exhausting.

    • Lani Rosales

      March 27, 2011 at 7:27 pm

      Michelle, I agree. The only answer I can come up with is standing firm- most women don’t. The debate has been raging in the tech world for some time, but is the secret in our real estate industry that is quietly swept under the rug. The average Realtor is a 54 year old woman, yet almost all brokerages are run by men.

      Who asks for a one night stand? Ugh. That’s just ridiculous, Michelle, “thanks for all of your hard work, superior intelligence, extreme creativity and savvy that is so rare in this field, I’m so turned on.” #lame

  25. Tina Merritt

    March 27, 2011 at 8:31 pm

    When I first entered the real estate industry in 1998, my mentor told me of how the owner of our company used to visit each office and make sure the women were wearing attire as dictated in the policy manual (pantyhose and skirts or dresses).

    We’ve come a long way…but still have so much further to go.

    Lani, you are a gifted writer and this is a column I will cherish and read for a long time. Thank you.

    • Lani Rosales

      March 27, 2011 at 8:35 pm

      Tina, we have come a long way for sure, that’s what pains me to write this in the first place! There are so many more men that get it than don’t.

      Thank you for the wonderful note, Tina!

      ps: in 2004, I was required to wear pantyhose at all times. In Texas. In 3 million degree weather. Bleh.

  26. stephanie crawford

    March 27, 2011 at 8:49 pm

    Right on Lani. I’ve never experienced any overtly sexist attitudes in my career in real estate, at least none that come to mind, but my mom was a Nashville police officer in the south starting in 1972 – only the seventh female officer in our city (Nashville, TN). You should hear some of her stories.

    • Lani Rosales

      March 27, 2011 at 9:33 pm

      Stephanie, I can’t imagine the tales of your mom- makes our struggle look like a whiney baby cake walk, I bet!

  27. Ines

    March 27, 2011 at 10:38 pm

    I’ve read this post a couple of times and didn’t even know where to begin. Yes there are ignorant and arrogant people all around us that will find a way to try to put you down – either because you are a woman, or you are latin, asian,black,have an accent, they feel threatened by you, or whatever.

    What makes us better people and professionals is the fact that we can overlook the ignorant comments and keep growing and becoming better people. I’ve been surrounded by all kinds of chauvinists all my life and they become transparent. I know that this was a way of you to get some things out of your chest, a rant of sorts, but you leave me in total awe.

    If a person I admired, or was “beloved”, as you put it, would have said the “on your knees” comment to me, I would have called him out on the spot!! I would have announced that he had offended me and there was no room for that in our “relationship”. Sexist jokes are uncalled for, but if this person had any sort of backbone, he would have made it up to you. If you have been holding this is and not discussed it with him, it would be extremely sad….but then again, I don’t know what kind of relationship you had or wanted from that individual.

    What I’m saying here is that even our closest loved ones make HUGE mistakes that can break our hearts, we do have the choice to react, ignore or forgive.

  28. Theresa Kraa

    March 28, 2011 at 12:01 pm


    Thank you for such a great article. Such a shame that it had to be written, but I am glad I took the time to read it this morning. It brought back memories of times where I went through similar situations but before real estate.

    I am fairly new to the real estate marketing world (just over 2 years in the business) and I am now a Marketing Director for a Commercial Brokerage and the executive assistant for the broker and all his residential listings at the same time. It’s a pretty tough job but I love every minute of it. I am not college educated in marketing, just self taught and have worked independently with numerous agents with their online marketing before coming on board here. My broker (boss) is a wonderful man who treats me with full respect and I realize that this is rare in the the industry. But there is hope out there for equality while still sad that it exists in our everyday lives.

    We need to keep plugging away and keep picking at the glass ceiling so that it crashes down for all of us! Also important, don’t forget to help those coming into the industry below us (men and women,) mentor them and it builds strength in all of us.

    Thank you again.

    • Lani Rosales

      March 28, 2011 at 1:00 pm

      Theresa, wonderful thoughts and I praise you for acknowledging a strong male figure who doesn’t bow to former societal pressure to demean women.

      Welcome to the industry, it’s actually a really amazing place to be, just one that I’ve had a few disparaging moments in. I do believe most men in the industry are like your boss, which makes the sexist men stand out even that much more. Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts with us!

  29. LesleyLambert

    March 28, 2011 at 1:57 pm

    I loved this post upon first read and what was great about it was that it stayed with me. It got me thinking and remembering things that I had completely forgotten.

    You inspired me to do a video post on this topic and I tell how a sexist work environment actually led me to my real estate career.

    I also remember a time when I was in my mid-20’s and in a meeting with the City…negotiating some business rights. The 40-something man says to me, “Young lady, we are the 600 lb gorilla. It is our way or the highway.”

    I stood and very politely said as I opened our door, “In that case, Mr. Monkeyman, the highway is right out this door.”

    I won’t tolerate being treated with disrespect from anyone.

    • Lani Rosales

      March 30, 2011 at 4:49 pm

      Leslie, I loved the ISMs video, you’re right- it’s mostly negatives.

  30. Kristin Moran

    March 28, 2011 at 9:39 pm


    I admire the way you spoke up for yourself & didn’t freeze in the midst of his disparaging comments. Brilliant!

    I admire Margaret Kelly as the CEO of our company, she is a spectacular role model for women everywhere.

    You are a truly gifted writer. Thanks for sharing your story.

    • Lani Rosales

      March 30, 2011 at 4:55 pm

      Thank you, Kristin- Margaret Kelly is indeed a role model. I don’t know her personally but all interviews/videos I’ve seen of her, she carries herself with a calm assuredness that is striking.

  31. Kelsey Teel

    March 29, 2011 at 3:47 pm

    WOW! This was great…and so are you! 🙂

  32. Katie Minkus, R(B)

    April 8, 2011 at 3:01 pm

    Aloha Lani. Were you an agent or a Broker with the Hawaii Life team here on the Big Island, it would be my honor to serve you coffee, regardless of either of our gender. 😉 Great post.

    It’s amazing to me that people in general – especially those who theoretically are “smarter” or “leaders” or are perceived to be somehow “in charge” because they are in a top spot – still even behave this way at all – to anyone.

    I’ve been called a lot of things, from “the enemy” to “caustic” and of course more than once, bitch. And my company is no better than the rest – all three owners are men, and only 3 of 9 leaders are women, in an industry that is overwhelmingly female. I giggle sometimes when people can’t figure out why the Big Island Hawaii Life team is so “cooperative”… well, duh, look at the roster and figure it out… (And, btw, we’ve also been busy cashing our fair share of checks, too, clocking in at #6 out of 220+ offices on island by the end of 2010 – in less than 2 years of business, in one of the worst economies in history.) You are absolutely right, success is the best “revenge.”

    It might be good to point out that I’m the President of our local NAR Association – the West Hawaii Association of Realtors, and here’s the great – but maybe not surprising news (we are a volunteer organization, after all) – only 2 Board of Directors are male – out of 13. Yet, we are the leaders in our industry, we are rising above – and succeeding.

    Thanks for writing this post, perhaps it will lead all of us to a new way of thinking about “feminism.” One that is more inclusive all all types, walks and backgrounds of women.

  33. Olga

    April 11, 2011 at 3:46 pm

    You know…this was one of those posts that I needed time to digest. I read this over 2 weeks ago and finally can articulate my thoughts on this.

    I remember graduating from college and thinking that the professional world was this incredible place, budding with opportunities left and right. And it was, except I was in a different place. I was cute. I have struggled with this label for years, especially because I may be cute, but I’m also smart and strategic, just like my male counterparts. The thing that has impacted me the most over the past two years (when it became so much more apparent) is that there is so little respect toward a young ‘cute’ girl. It drives me crazy. That being said, I have (or I suppose) had yet to learn how to ‘not get on my knees’. I let things happen, things be said, because I didn’t know any better. I thought I was being nice. But no…I was allowing them to disrespect me and treat me like a ‘cute girl’. It drives me bananas that I didn’t learn this in college.

    I didn’t learn this from my mother or any of my female family members. Not even my friends. The closest I ever came to learning this was from Sex and the City. How sad is it that we all as women live this phenomenon of ‘getting on our knees’ and never spend the time talking it about it to each other?

    That’s one of the reasons I started a group in Austin called the Young Women’s Roundtable. I figured if we had female execs that had already experienced things like this, then they could share that with their younger counterparts.

    Thank you Lani for sharing this. I don’t feel so alone in the world of inappropriate comments. AND for telling me how you dealt with it. I think that’s what I love most about this…how you dealt with it. I don’t really need to be scared anymore to not get on my knees anymore. Thank you.

    • Lani Rosales

      April 11, 2011 at 4:10 pm

      Olga, I didn’t grow up with a female figure for some of my life, so I learned from boys that they don’t intentionally disparage, it just happens, so my solution of setting it straight always worked with my father and brother and has worked *pretty* well in business, but it hasn’t gone without getting a bitch reputation at the negotiation table.

      The “cute” girl is a label I deal with as well and it’s almost the worst class of girl you can be- the attitude tends to be that at least ugly girls had to work their way through school and earn their respect whereas cute girls MUST have had everything handed to them… I assure you not ONE thing has been handed to me, I’ve worked my ass off much like I bet you have!

  34. Victoria Jacobs

    January 5, 2012 at 3:23 pm

    Thank the lord above for you missy and this article.

    I have MORE than once in personal and professional been the "bitch" and this hits everything dead on….

    I for one still keep marching on knowing that the people who truly know me, respect me, and want to work with a confident, strong and smart cookie are the only things that matter when I lay down at the end of the day.

    This article is beyond award winning and spoken with prefessionalism and strength and again I thank you for writing it.

  35. Kimi Correa

    February 21, 2017 at 8:19 pm

    Hi Lani,
    As a real estate agent this article really spoke to me. I know it’s an older article and you may not even be a part of this thread any longer but if you are, I just want to thank you for writing this. I hope you are continuing to write these days. Thank you from Hawaii.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Opinion Editorials

Culture can be defined by what employees don’t say

(OPINION) What your employees say defines your business. What your employees don’t say defines your culture.



women in leadership lean out

Whether the boss realizes or not, employees – the folks who often manufacture, handle, and sell the products themselves – can see sides of the business that management could easily overlook, including potential risks and improvements. So how do you make sure your employees are speaking up? A new study by Harvard researcher Hemant KakkarSubra Tangirala reveals that when it comes to speaking up, your company culture is probably either encouraging or discouraging it.

Tangirala wanted to compare two theories as to why employees choose to stay quiet when they could share their worries or ideas with company management. The “personality perspective” presumes that shy, reticent employees simply don’t have the gumption to speak up; therefore, the way to get more perspective from your employees is to make a point to hire extroverted people.

Meanwhile, the “situational perspective” posits that the company culture may either be encouraging and even expecting employees to speak up or discouraging it by creating an environment wherein employees “fear suffering significant social costs by challenging their bosses.”

In order to test these two theories against one another, Tangirala surveyed nearly 300 employees and 35 supervisors at a Malaysian manufacturing plant. First, the survey measured each employee’s “approach orientation,” that is whether or not, all things being equal, they had a personality more inclined to speaking up or staying mum. Next, employees were asked whether they thought their input was expected, rewarded, or punished. Lastly, supervisors were asked to rank the employees as to how often they spoke up on the shop floor.

The survey showed that both personality and the work environment significantly influenced whether or not an employee would speak up – however, it also showed that environmental factors could “override” employees’ natural inclinations. In other words, if employees felt that they were expected or would be rewarded for speaking up, they would do so, even if they aren’t naturally garrulous. On the other hand, even the most outspoken employees would bite their tongues if they thought they would be punished for giving their opinion.

The study also identified two major areas wherein employees could be either encouraged or discouraged from sharing their perspective. First, employees can be encouraged to suggest improvements or innovations that will increase workplace safety and efficiency. Secondly, employees should be expected to speak up when they witness dangers or behaviors that could “compromise safety or operations.”

Although the study was limited, it seems to point towards the importance of creating a workplace culture wherein your employees are rewarded for speaking up. Doing so could potentially provide you with invaluable insights into how to improve your business – insights that can only come from the shop floor.

Continue Reading

Opinion Editorials

How to change your negative mindset into something of value

(EDITORIAL) Once you’re an expert, it’s easy to get caught in the know-it-all-trap, but expertise and cynicism age like fine wine, and can actually benefit you/others if communicated effectively.




In conversation with our friend John Steinmetz, he shared some thoughts with me that have really stuck with us.

He has expanded on these thoughts for you below, in his own words, and we truly believe that any individual can benefit from this perspective:

Over the last few years I have realized a few things about myself. I used to be trouble, always the dissenting opinion, always had to be on the opposite side of everyone else.

Then, I started reading everything I could get my hands on dealing with “how to change your attitude,” “how to be a better team player,” etc.

Over the course of that time I realized something. I realized that there was nothing wrong with me, only something wrong with how I communicate.

Unfortunately, once someone sets the context of who you are, they will never see you as anything else. I was labeled a troublemaker by those who didn’t want to “rock the boat” and that was that.

In my readings of books and articles by some of the most prominent technical leaders, they all had something in common. Paraphrasing of course, they all said “you can’t innovate and change the world by doing the same thing as everyone else.” So, in actuality, it wasn’t me, it was my communication style. For that reason, you have to say it out loud – “I will make waves.”


There are two things I reference in physics about making waves.

  • “A ship moving over the surface of undisturbed water sets up waves emanating from the bow and stern of the ship.”
  • “The steady transmission of a localized disturbance through an elastic medium is common to many forms of wave motion.”

You need motion to create waves. How big were the waves when the internet was created? Facebook? Just think about the natural world and there are examples everywhere that follow the innovation pattern.

You see it in the slow evolution of DNA and then, BAM, mutations disrupt the natural order and profoundly impact that change.


Where I was going wrong was, ironically, the focus of my career which is now Data. For those who do not know me, I am a product director, primarily in the analytics and data space.

More simply: For the data generated or consumed by an organization, I build products and services that leverage that data to generate revenue, directly or indirectly through the effectiveness of the same.

I was making the mistake of arguing without data because “I knew everything.” Sound familiar?

Another ironic thing about what I do is that if you work with data long enough, you realize you know nothing. You have educated guesses based on data that, if applied, give you a greater chance of determining the next step in the path.

To bring this full circle, arguing without data is like not knowing how to swim. You make waves, go nowhere and eventually sink. But add data to your arguments and you create inertia in some direction and you move forward (or backward, we will get to this in a min).

So, how do you argue effectively?

First, make sure that you actually care about the subject. Don’t get involved or create discussions if you don’t care about the impact.

As a product manager, when I speak to engineering, one of my favorite questions is “Why do I care?” That one question alone can have the most impact on an organization. If I am told there are business reasons for a certain decision and I don’t agree with the decision, let’s argue it out. Wait, what? You want to argue?

So, back to communication and understanding. “Argue” is one of those words with a bad connotation. When quite simply it could be defined as giving reasons or citing evidence in support of an idea, action, or theory, typically with the aim of persuading others to share one’s view.

Words matter

As many times as I have persuaded others to my point of view, I have been persuaded to change mine.

That is where my biggest change has occurred.

I now come into these situations with an open mind and data. If someone has a persuasive argument, I’m sold. It is now about the decision, not me. No pride.

Moving forward or backward is still progress (failure IS an option).

The common thought is that you have to always be perfect and always be moving forward. “Failure is not an option.”

When I hear that, I laugh inside because I consider myself a master of controlled failure. I have had the pleasure to work in some larger, more tech savvy companies and they all used controlled experimentation to make better, faster decisions.

Making waves is a way of engaging the business to step out of their comfort zone and some of the most impactful decisions are born from dissenting opinions. There is nothing wrong with going with the flow but the occasional idea that goes against the mainstream opinion can be enough to create innovation and understand your business.

And it is okay to be wrong.

I am sure many of you have heard Thomas Edison’s take on the effort to create the first lightbulb. He learned so much more from the failures than he did from success.

”I didn’t fail. I just found 2,000 ways not to make a lightbulb; I only needed to find one way to make it work.” – Thomas Edison

It is important to test what you think will not work. Those small failures can be more insightful, especially when you are dealing with human behaviors. Humans are unpredictable at the individual level but groups of humans can be great tools for understanding.

Don’t be afraid

Turn your negative behavior into something of value. Follow these steps and you will benefit.

  1. Reset the context of your behavior (apologize for previous interactions, miscommunications) and for the love of all that is holy, be positive.
  2. State your intentions to move forward and turn interactions into safe places of discussion.
  3. Learn to communicate alternative opinions and engage in conversation.
  4. Listen to alternative opinions with an open mind.
  5. Always be sure to provide evidence to back up your thoughts and suggestions.
  6. Rock the boat. Talk to more people. Be happy.
  7. A special thank you to John Steinmetz for sharing these thoughts with The American Genius audience.

Continue Reading

Opinion Editorials

Why tech companies should embrace Artist Residency Programs

(EDITORIAL) With technology founders wiping themselves with money while also truly caring about culture and inclusion, they’re missing a huge opportunity by ignoring artist in residency programs. Even Amtrak does it – come on, y’all.



artist in residency programs

There’s a ton of cash in the tech industry. Like, more money than your primate brain can process, like “get-the-country-out-of-debt” money – Scrooge McDuck swimming in gold levels of cash. That’s how profitable technology has become.

And we’re not just talking laptops and smartphones, either. All of those monthly subscriptions you’re not thinking about, the Hulu, Netflix, Microsoft Office, that extra storage for your MacBook or iPhone, that’s all got a name: Software as a Service (SaaS) and with major players like Apple and Disney upping their stakes in the game – this model ain’t going anywhere.

Our thermostats are connected to our iPhones, and our cars are plugged into a matrix that’s fed into the Internet. Everywhere you look, the tech industry is changing everything. Everyone has a smartphone, a tablet, and a laptop, or a television that’s Internet-enabled.

And for everything that’s connected to the Internet, someone’s making a buck.

According to CTA, the tech industry will make $398B this year, and The Big 5 – Google, Apple, Amazon, Microsoft, and Facebook are worth a combined three trillion dollars. What do these companies do with all of the cash?

These companies typically pay well. To hire the best, workers want a payday. That’s fine, everyone who bangs at their job should get their slice of the action. After that, companies invest in culture and hiring that next tier of top talent. But, after the company offsites in a wooded cabin, the multi-million-dollar research projects, and the fully covered healthcare are accounted for, there’s still dough to play with.

Let’s get creative.

A lot of the more prominent tech companies have established that giving back is critical to their mission. Teams do charity work, they fly to other countries to help build schools; all kinds of amazing wonderful things are happening thanks to some of the world’s biggest players.

But what if those same companies established a new precedent – What if they established artist in residency programs?

One of the greatest professional experiences of my life was working for Atlassian and traveling between the Austin, San Francisco, and Sydney offices. While I was there to write for them, I’m still a writer, I always worked on my stuff. I’ve written in cafés in North Beach after browsing City Lights books where Ginsburg stomped his feet. I’ve been in bookstores in Sydney, never taking for granted for a second that I was beyond lucky to have this chance; that experience opened up a world that money had prevented me from exploring.

Can you imagine being allowed to fly to another office to work in a different environment, just for a change of scenery? It’s staggering what a comprehensive program could do for the arts community. The money and infrastructure is there, and so long as companies continue their dedication to paying it forward, this should be an added flavor to that mission.

This might sound like a shocker, but most of your friends who pursue art for a living ain’t exactly making windfalls of cash.

Most artistic types are freelancers or have multiple side hustles – they wait tables, or slug away in the bars, they cut corners on life’s everyday expenses in pursuit of their art. Your average painter, cartoonist, writer, filmmaker, they’re all chasing the project that gives them a chance to make their art their living. The problem is, for most creatives, it’s a dog chases its tail kinda life and that tail ain’t getting any longer or tastier.

How would it work?

Companies should work with the Alliance of Artist Communities (AAC) and set up a residency program. The AAC had been setting up residencies across the country for years, so while this is a feel-good philanthropic endeavor, the organization knows every tax break and loophole out there.

And realistically, the AAC has to, considering the culture of treating the arts in our communities is seen more of a begrudging, “we should probably do this” offense rather than an important investment. Most artistic programs receive pennies on the dollar, and most creatives live hand to mouth in pursuit of their dreams, and for many tech founders, the story is relatable, only they’re masters at problem-solving. Creativity doesn’t have to be pen to paper and the outcome being a funny doodle of a dog riding a skateboard, the creative mind is our innate core, we’re programmed to search for inventive ways to solve problems.

We just turn it off as society deems creativity an expendable commodity.

Creativity shouldn’t be relegated as frivolity, but essential.

In the world of artistic residences, paying bills is an issue. So, many programs have to drum up funds, find donors, seek out worthwhile endowments, search for tax breaks. Many are non-for-profits because they need grants for just about everything.

But in tech, cash is there aplenty.

Instead of throwing a Christmas party with a $100K budget for each office around the world, that money could be better spent on social enrichment. I’ve worked in the tech world for the past six years, and I’ve seen a lot of wasteful spending. While I love a good massage chair experience, that money could have been spent elsewhere versus giving staff of over three hundred already fabulously well paid people fifteen minutes of “me time.”

For one year or whatever predetermined amount of time, a company would allow a creative in their city to “join the team.”

What’s that look like?

Allow someone to create in these offices that are more like adult Disney World with their free snacks, open collaboration, catered meals, and endless perks. Give an artist a space that was once a small meeting room and let them do their thing.

The culture aspect of a creative being dropped in the average technology environment would blow their minds – most tech companies strive for diversity and inclusivity, and this program would be a brushstroke in that palette of reasoning.

By giving the creative the chance to mix it up with people who think in code, in marketing campaigns or how to “disrupt the market,” the influence would be impactful: a developer might become a nature photographer, or maybe a mixed media artist helps the marketing team see a problem from a different point of view. If there are anything companies in tech suffer from, it’s a little too much inward focus.

Change everything with a pen stroke.

Some campuses are so big (Facebook, Apple to name just two), they could support two or three artists at a time.

Indeed, Atlassian, Oracle, Uber, Lyft, all have multiple offices around the world. Imagine an extroverted painter working in a common room, while people move to and from meetings, getting that flash of inspiration, even if minute.

That’s beautiful.

Maybe instead of continually talking about code depositories or the next sprint, people got hip to new books? Maybe an essayist learns how to use Trello to manage their weekly pitches or maybe even further, they learn about how agile principles work could make their processes more manageable?

And while this person is getting paid, maybe they’re earning more money than they’ve ever seen. What if someone who’s always worked minimum wage jobs were given an $80K gig to create? Sure, you’d need to coach them on saving up for when the program is over, but for that period, being restricted to the dollar menu wouldn’t be everyday life.

The results would be staggering. The average working artist has to grind while others are asleep, early in the morning or late at night, they find ways to communicate their feelings, but while still making sure rent is on time.

Companies could establish an annual open competition where artists of whatever designated mediums submit their work.

Maybe it’s film or painting, or gosh, even a writer. But for that year, the winner gets to attend the fun parties, the culture building events, but most importantly gets paid well for their residency.

If the competition is opened up beyond the borders of the company’s home base, that works, too. Most bigger companies have a few corporate apartments that are barely used. Giving someone a room wouldn’t be that big of a deal.

Artists could donate their skills to workshops, creative programming, even create art specifically for the space. Most offices anywhere could use a little freshening up, or at least an ongoing blog series, something.

As for the perception of “selling out” the artistic culture has changed, where it was once punk rock to keep everything as DIY as possible, most of us creatives are fighting against a sea of other talented people all of the time, the chance for exposure on a bigger level, but also being financially free is worth wearing a few corporate branded t-shirts. And honestly, tech companies generally aren’t as gross as the old school monoliths of the past, most of the executive boards are made up of actual people who started from the bottom.

As my friend Jason Saul of BirdNote once told me, “don’t think of it as ‘selling out’ we’re in a hip hop-driven culture, you’re blowing up.”

There are residency programs on farms, a recycling center in SF, in the woods, the Florida keys, Amtrak got into the residency game for a while, just as Padre Island in Texas, the national parks all have them, even the CERN large hadron collider has an artist in residence program.

To double-down even further, even The Mall of America, the place where you can buy a corn dog or visit one of five Victoria’s Secret stores (who needs that many panties?) or ride a rollercoaster, has an artist in residence program.

The artist is given $2500 for a week, plus a hotel room and are allowed to roam the mall 24/7. LaGuardia airport in New York rehabbed an old Hudson News and converted it into a kiosk to people watch and create, so why not the tech companies who purposely set up shop in buildings in the heart of downtowns across the world or amongst trees in sprawling acreage?

This is possible.

Who’s going to be first?

Continue Reading

Our Great Partners

American Genius
news neatly in your inbox

Subscribe to our mailing list for news sent straight to your email inbox.

Emerging Stories

Get The American Genius
neatly in your inbox

Subscribe to get business and tech updates, breaking stories, and more!