Barbara Corcoran of Shark Tank fame recently offered particularly sound advice to a female fan concerned about entering the male-dominated business world.
Corcoran built her real estate firm, The Corcoran Group, into one of the most successful in the highly competitive New York City market and sold it for $66 million in 2001. Today, in addition to investing in entrepreneurs on Shark Tank, she hosts a podcast, “Business Unusual,” and answers questions from listeners.
A college-bound listener, Tracy, called her seeking advice about overcoming the barriers to succeeding in business as a female. Corcoran answered her as follows (starting at 2:50):
Tracy, first off, you can’t focus on the barriers. If you look at the barriers, it keeps you outside in the same spot you’re in. No! Don’t look at the barriers, and certainly don’t look at yourself as a young girl or even a woman, for that matter.
I don’t think I ever approached a day in my life in business trying to build my life as I wanted it to be as a young girl or as a woman. I thought of myself as a person and, more importantly, I thought of myself as a competitor.
So when I entered the world of men who looked down on me or didn’t take me seriously, I don’t think I was even aware of that. I just dismissed it. I was too busy just doing what I had to do to accomplish what I wanted to do, and if they saw me differently, what the heck.
It wasn’t until I was in business ten years [that] I realized the great advantage of being a woman. You know what it was? The guys who didn’t take me seriously. And so I went around their back and competed so hard while they weren’t watching until I became their number one rival. I surprised them. If I had been a man, they would have seen me coming and they would have put up a battle. But because I was a woman, they didn’t take me seriously.
Stop thinking of yourself as a woman. Just go out and compete like you would if you were a man.
Corcoran is right.
In essence, she holds that women can succeed in the business world if they focus on their goals, strategize and compete to demonstrate their value, and dismiss as non-essential such matters as gender and irrational prejudices.
Kudos to Corcoran for offering such rare but rational advice. The business world—and the culture in general—need more voices like hers.
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