When it comes to women in the workplace, Barbara Corcoran’s personal journey is an exemplary tale. Corcoran created the first woman-owned real estate firm in New York City and went on to sell her lucrative business, the Corcoran Group, for $66 million in 2001. Corcoran’s business-savvy reputation and no-nonsense demeanor precedes her, and she’s the first to acknowledge that going against the grain can be a woman’s biggest advantage in the workplace…especially when you’re up against men.
We caught up with the business mogul in NYC, where she candidly discussed her career. While often times women believe they need to conform to get ahead, in reality it’s one’s individuality that just might be your greatest asset.
There’s no better example of that than Corcoran herself, who paved her own way and overcame personal obstacles to develop the empire she currently runs today. “I did one thing intentionally as a woman: I wore bright red suits and short skirts, and the reason I did is because when I walked into a room filled with men in suits everybody noticed me, because I was nobody and I wanted to be noticed,” she says.
“The minute a man in my career ever talked down to me in any regard I smiled, because I knew I was gonna prove him wrong.”
Her best piece of advice? Don’t let your sex define you. “Forget you’re a woman. the greatest asset I have, and I’ve been asked that question my whole life, I never for a moment thought of myself as a woman. Other than that one gimmick of dressing in that bright red suit, if someone treated me like a woman or dismissed me in any regard, I looked at them like, ‘What are they nuts?’ And you know what? You’re better off that way,” she says. “Otherwise you fall into a trap of dis-empowering yourself. You’re better off being gender blind, men are better off and women, in particular, are better off. Just be gender blind and plow through.”
Although Corcoran’s business-savvy instincts and ability to persevere paved the road for her successful career she was constantly met with gender discrimination along the way. She quickly learned the best way to overcome the adversity was by being her own cheerleader.
“Let me tell you something: the best thing you can do is prove them wrong, get even,” she says. “The minute a man in my career ever talked down to me in any regard I smiled, because I knew I was gonna prove him wrong. Sometimes I didn’t even want what I had to prove, but I just had to prove him wrong and I would kill to prove him wrong. That satisfaction raises your self-confidence up a notch and then up another notch until after a while you don’t really care what the guys think. I couldn’t care less what anybody thinks — it’s about what I think about myself.”
Corcoran’s experience with sexism is unfortunately all too relateable and her advice reminds women everywhere that it’s inexcusable to let someone else’s bias define you.