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TRUST: Building a bridge over the gender gap, together! - Debra Trappen
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TRUST: Building a bridge over the gender gap, together!

It is time to work together to build a bridge over the gender gap.
This podcast shares 5 ways to start the journey, together!



Podcast Transcription:

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Hello and welcome to the Fire Up Podcast I am your host, Debra Trappen.

Today’s Fire Up topic is about TRUST and building a bridge over the gender gap – TOGETHER.

Recently I spoke at a leadership retreat called Disconnect hosted by Brad and Yaz Inman of Inman News. This unconventional event brought 150 leaders, influencers, and visionaries in the real estate space together IN THE WOODS.  I was asked to speak on “the state of women in the industry” and share my perspectives – I wholeheartedly said YES.

This episode shares my talk and some of the key takeaways shared during our time together in the woods.

I wanted this talk to be different and to share how we can DO SOMETHING – not just all agree something needs to happen. Actually, it was clear, after a raising of hands, that nearly everyone there believed there is a need for more women in leadership.

To kick off my talk – I partnered with my amazing wing man, Jim Walberg.  He graciously agreed to read the stories of what women face in the workplace. The first story was of a woman who was called vile names in a business meeting, others around sexual harassment, abuse, and shame. Not all of the stories were about men targeting women – some of them detailed women terrorizing, shaming, and even throwing other women under the bus.

The point of the stories was to share that these things are happening right now, today, to women sitting next to us at the table, in church, and in line to pick up the kiddos at school.  Women are combatting these issues while fighting for equality at work… let’s be real – it is exhausting.  We can’t do it alone and need to stop trying to.

We need TRUST to build a bridge over the gender gap. Trust in each other, trust in the numbers, and trust in our gut that this is the right thing to do… that we NEED diversity and equality at the table.

Let’s take a look at the letters in TRUST to give us some guidance.


Table Time 

When we are at the table – whether it is a leadership retreat, board meeting, conference planning meeting, panel… and so on. Look Left and Right and ask yourself a question:  Are there women at the table?

If not, we all need you to stand up and ask WHY?  We need you to speak out because YOU are at the table.  We can’t fight to be at the table when we are not even invited into the room or know where it is.

Then ask yourself:  Do I know a qualified woman who should be at the table?

If the answer is no, let that be a signal to get out there and find one.  Smart business women are not unicorns – they exist in all industries. Some may be harder to find – but they are out there.

If the answer is yes, you know what to do.

Note I did not say put ANY WOMAN at the table… I said QUALIFIED. The women I have spoken with do not want to be at the table “just because they are female”. However, if being the token gal at the table is the gateway for more women there – we will do it.

Being aware of unconscious biases and social norms is also a step to building this bridge.

I read a recent study (on Geena Davis’s seejane.org) that found that if men look in a room and 17 percent are women, they think it’s 50-50. And if 33 percent are women, the men perceive there are more women in the room (or at the table) than men.
Fascinating… and sadly, it’s quite possible that 17 percent women has become so comfortable, and so normal, that that’s just sort of unconsciously expected.

Let’s not let this continue.  Let’s be awake and aware.

Let’s also take a look at the “rules” in point #2.


Rules – Shake Them Up, Break Them, or Add Them.

Far too often, when talking with board leaders, I hear “the rules” as an excuse for the fact that there are no women at the table.  We can only have 12 seats, the definition of a leader requires a company of a certain size or public standing.

In real estate, that “disqualifies” a substantial number of women.  For example, in CA – 90% of the women broker/owners are leading independent brokerages – not national affiliates or big box companies.  That means these brilliant minds are not even on the radar of many boards!

Education stats also support that women are not expecting to be given a position without knowledge/experience. Women earn 57 percent of bachelor’s degrees, over 62 percent of master’s degrees, and 53 percent of degrees such as PhDs, medical degrees, and law degrees in the United States.

 So- what can we do?

1: Add a chair – the world won’t implode if you add a chair or two to gain momentum.  When diversity becomes the norm – stack the chairs back up again.

2: Also, consider crushing the customs and criteria.
Imagine the incredible diversity available when you open up your “applicant requirements” to consider leaders running successful – yet smaller, privately owned companies!

3: Last, but not least when it comes to the “rules”, add percentage goals to your board seats, leadership team, and talent pipeline.  We all know part of achieving a desired outcome is having a solid, written goal to slay!  Start with a goal of 20% and move up to a targeted diversity that mirrors your consumers!

Let’s move on to U…


Understanding The Ask Syndrome

Women have been conditioned for generations to WAIT TO BE ASKED.  During a chat with one of my friends and mentors, Vanessa Bergmark – we dug into this concept.  Think about it – we teach our girls to wait for the ask to attend the dance, to go on the date, to get married… We still have a special dance where it is “appropriate” for the girls to ask the boys to the dance!

This subconsciously teaches them “when you are worthy – you will be asked” and your place is to wait until someone asked you.

Now, I KNOW we are all working on this and we are shifting how we are raising the next generation.  However, MANY of the women currently in the workforce still subscribe to this – whether consciously or not.

So, for all of you at the table or part of the hiring teams – I call upon you to accept a mission and ASK.

We need you to ask us if we have ever thought about stepping into that VP role (even though in our minds we are thinking – the job description STATES 20 required bullets and I only have 14!)

Trust that this will ignite and empower the women in your organization to believe they are worthy… and add a rich layer of experience and wisdom to your leadership teams and board meetings.

Please be the bridge builder, not the gate keeper.

Which leads nicely into #4…


Start Mentoring Today

More precisely, start mentoring someone of the opposite sex.

When we open ourselves up to teaching and learning from someone of a different gender – we consciously AND subconsciously start to see them in a different light.  We also are exposed to the differences in how men and women communicate and how they perceive and strategically approach business situations. When we seek to connect and mentor with them – they are also top of mind when a new opportunity arises – like a new exec position in your org, a board seat that just opened up, or that call for speakers at the event you are attending!

As soon as you are done listening to (reading) this –
I want you to stop and write down your favorite TOPIC.  

Ask yourself:
What business conversations set my soul on fire?
What problems am I compelled to solve?

Seriously – do you love to help people design business models, create pitch decks for investors, or put together boards? Maybe you love to formulate programs to attract top talent or review business plans?

Whatever it is WRITE IT DOWN and start SHARING IT.  Ask around for someone who needs your wisdom, experience, or skills. There are plenty of people out there looking for what you have to offer.  Step outside of the people in your immediate space.

And you never know – this mentee may become a long term connection that brings an amazing, rich layer of experience and perspective to YOUR WORLD, too!


Tell someone. 

Don’t leave this here in this moment.  Whether you heard this live in the woods or are listening on your couch, in your car, cubical, or from your shiny corner office.

Inspire someone else to look around their tables,  Shake Up, Break Up, or add new rules, add a chair and ask and invite a new, diverse perspective to join the conversation… and intentionally seek and mentor someone of the opposite sex.

In closing…

Trust this is real.

Trust that this is happening in our daughters, wives, friends, sisters and mothers lives. If we don’t move this forward and implement change – this will continue to happen to future generations. To our granddaughters and great-granddaughters.

Trust the numbers, they don’t lie.

When men and women come together and lead from their strengths – magic happens.  Diverse leadership teams and boards often better mirror customer and client bases. Women control and influence over 80% of the home wallet decisions. They also purchase for multiple generations – so their perspective is wide. Leverage these truths.

Trust your gut.

Trust and fuel that fire in your belly that desires to be part of the change. Trust that you are an architect of a new legacy. You were born for such a time as this.

Now, go out there and build the bridge. 

Close the gap. 

TRUST that together, we are leading our companies and industries into a new era.




As always, I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic.

  ~Have you implemented a program that is working?

  ~Do you have an idea for one that needs wings?

Share it with me in the comments below or message me here.


Thank you for joining me today.  Until next time…

Remember to look for and embrace those Fire Up opportunities to engage, elevate, and empower your world.





Resources sited and used for research:




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