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Women's Events - Do We Still Need Them? - Debra Trappen
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Women’s Events – Do We Still Need Them?

Listen To This On The Fire Up! Podcast

It is no secret.
I am passionate about serving and empowering women.

It is a big part of my purpose on the planet. Whether these women are building their corner of the Kingdom from their couch, carpool, cubicle, or corner office – my heart’s desire is for every woman to engage, elevate and embrace her authentic self so she is able to ignite and empower her world.

As one on a short list of professional AND female speakers, especially in the real estate industry, I am asked to speak at quite a few “women’s conferences” during the year. I also passionately serve the Women’s Council of REALTORS®.

These “choices” elicit a MULTITUDE of questions, including:

– Why do women need their “own” event?

– Isn’t an event “just for women” the exact opposite side of the sexism issue you are fighting?

– Why do you perpetuate the “gender divide” by doing these events?

– What really “happens” there?

While speaking at the WomanUP event last week, I received many of these questions.

Curious what WomanUP is? It is a new event hosted by Sara Sutachan and Leslie Appleton-Young of the California Association of REALTORS® to ignite and rally the women in the industry to consider stepping into leadership positions.

 – Check out these SPECTACULAR Word Art notes from Brilliantly Bri Art!

 – AND this FAB recap of the event written by, Valerie Garcia.


During the conference, I posted this quote from Leslie who is the Chief Economist for C.A.R. and a heroine to many MANY women in the industry.

WomanUp Quotes

60+ people loved/liked the photo, only three of them were men. All of the comments were women. I received 4 direct messages FROM MEN, asking me “What was going on at that women’s conference“?

Was there man-bashing happening?

Were we burning our bras?

Seriously?  UGH. (x11)

This post shares 5 of the most common excuses women are not in leadership or on stage as keynote speakers along with my “replies”… and the second half includes 5 reasons women’s conferences are part of the SOLUTION to these problems.

First of all, when anyone asks me those questions, I usually say something like:

“The fact anyone is still asking those questions is proof the problem still exists. The number of women in executive positions and board positions is dismal. It is in the news EVERY SINGLE WEEK.”

Want proof in data?

The Data on Women Leaders (Pew Research)

WomanUP Report “Executive Summary” (C.A.R.)
Download a copy and you will also receive notification when the full report is out!

Next, I ask some questions:

What is the male to female ratio at the leadership events you attend?
– How many male and female speakers are sharing their thoughts and visions from your stages?
       – Is it anywhere near balanced?
– How about when you look around the table at board meetings or leadership retreats at your company?
– When you look to the left and then to the right are there ANY women at the table?
– If so, is there a balanced number? Is there a token female? Or worse, NONE?
– How does your organization support “working parent” hurdles?

We all know women have a valuable perspective and (often) a different set of skills to offer. Their communication and listening styles tend to vary greatly from men, so they bring added layers of vision, problem-solving, and relationship building techniques to those events and “the table”.

Then, the “justifications and reasons” start to flow.

I’ve heard so many excuses around WHY there are no women at “our” table.
Quite honestly, none of them make sense.

Here are five of the most frequent I hear and my general replies:

Excuse 1: There aren’t any women interested.


My Response:
There are plenty of women interested in leadership and speaking.

Over 300 were in a room together at the #WomanUP conference in Pasadena, CA.

WE are not unicorns, although we are magical in many ways.  

See event photo for proof of these women.  We really do exist.

Want to see more?  Check out this awesome project called #PresentHerpresenther.org

WomanUp Banner Pic

Excuse 2: Many of our female employees are not as qualified as their male counterparts… mainly because they stayed home to raise children.

My Response:
Qualified women are EVERYWHERE. They are attending conferences, serving on Women’s Council networks, serving on their association boards, teaching and mentoring the next generation, and running successful households AND businesses.

YES, I included HOUSEHOLDS. I am so tired of the argument that women who have stayed home are somehow BEHIND their male counterparts. Every single woman I know who has chosen to raise children has a MULTITUDE of skills being sparked and sharpened every moment of the day. They don’t sit at home nibbling on bonbons all day. They are excellent planners of meals, vacations, and numerous events – most of the time on LEAN budgets. They prep and run meetings for the PTA, American Heritage Girl, Scouts, etc. They coach teams. They wrangle chore detail schedules and homework. They are experts in drama management and constantly help others strengthen their emotional intelligence. They meet new people while waiting outside ballet lessons and learn the art of small talk and relationship building – even when forced to chat with other parents that drive them nuts. Oh, and negotiating with toddlers (or any age thru the teen years) is NOT a cake walk.  Lots of lessons learned and experience gained!

Maybe we need to start instructing women (and men) to add these years to their resumes and then teach our recruiters and hiring managers to STOP DISCOUNTING these killer skills. Experience comes in many forms. We need to change our thinking – ALL AROUND.

Excuse 3: The “rules” require all board members lead “large” or “public” organizations or (insert any other exclusionary requirement).


My Response:
First, as far as those archaic rules go – it is time to change them.  Most of the time what is in place to define what a leader (or a worthy organization) looks like excludes a lion-share of women from qualifying for board or leadership positions.

There are so many leaders (who happen to be women) already out there starting and running their own businesses/brokerages, building epic teams, launching tech companies… and so much more. They might not be as big or as public, but their leadership skills are still valuable.

These same women are becoming more confident and are keeping the conference momentum and conversations going on digital platforms now. They are deciding they want “leadership rules and definitions” to look DIFFERENT than the version defined and designed by men decades ago (aka the misogynistic MadMen era).

Rules are meant to be reviewed, revised, or even broken when they no longer serve their purpose.

If the old guard is not willing to mix it up and UPDATE the rules and guidelines – they will miss out on amazing talent and stellar brain power to help them move into the next century.

Excuse 4: No one has “retired” from the board – there is “no room”.


My Response:
Again, seriously?

Will the Universe cease to exist if you add a seat or two to your board so you can add a female to the mix?

Excuse 5: Women don’t step up and ask to be included.

Normally, this is followed up with “Why aren’t they just standing up, speaking up, and doing it?”

My Response:

Full disclosure: I used to think similar thoughts.  

I needed MINDSET shift, as well. My life has been blessed with ooooooodles of amazing, life-giving mentors, coaches, and leaders who have spoken vision and potential into and over my life. I was raised by two very empowering parents. My Pop was raised by kind, hard-working farmers in Minnesota. He decided he wanted a different life and boldly went for it.  He is an elite member of the original HW engineers generation. woot!  My Queen is a life-long entrepreneur who intentionally put her children first. She taught me the art of timing my “ASK”… It was a rule that she needed to decompress when she got home. We knew to wait until she finished her glass of wine or the answer was NO. She is brilliant. My parents both reminded me of my worth, value, and that my future was undefined and limitless.

Furthermore, most of the topics at these events are things I have heard my entire life.

My point?  Not every woman has this growing up. I had to realize that there were millions of women who have NEVER heard these things. These events are a magnificent opportunity for me to GIVE BACK and pay it forward.

Since my mindset shift, I have had many heated conversations with other women who question why these conferences exist. They share their concerns around how hosting these events make women look weak or powerless. They cringe when women “EMPOWER” each other or are tagged in quotes of the same ilk. Listen up, ladies. YOU might not need these events but MILLIONS of our sister warriors do. They aren’t as bold, brave, and perfectly bossy – like you and me. They are brilliant, lacking in confidence, and need our help.

I believe it is our responsibility to speak life into them, to encourage them, and to support them along the way.

If you are one of those women who questions these events – shame off you.  Please take a moment and think about WHY you feel that way. Maybe your soul is sending smoke signals to your still small voice to wake up. Maybe your questions are really a subconscious rally cry beckoning YOU onto the stages to generously INSPIRE other women with your tenacious stories of success and failure. When you do step up in this way, it will feel fantastic.

You will also be surprised and delighted by the copious notes and immediate growth you take with you when you walk out of the conference doors. I am always blessed with new perspectives, connections, and wisdom! Try it… I am believing you will LOVE IT.


Now, for all of you still curious about why WomanUp and women’s conferences are important, here are some of the life-changing reasons we must keep on keeping on.

• • •

1 – Encouragement:

Not ALL women have embraced their worthiness TO LEAD – especially in corporate settings. Encouraging them to see their value is an incredibly important role these conferences fill. We also need to encourage them to shake off the shame of “all they have not done in the past” and move forward with intention and purpose.

2 – Build a NEW vision:

Women have not had centuries of being raised up to step up as “the leader”. For decades, young boys have been watching male astronauts, male presidents, male preachers, male CEOs, male Governors, male refs, and male (fill in the blank) lauded and shining on stages, television, books, and magazines. The females in these roles have been the EXCEPTION – and continue to be – still to this day. We need to do better for ourselves and the next generation.

3 – Empower the ASK:

Women have also been taught “wait to be asked“.  We have been raised up to wait for a man to ask us to marry or out on a date (I know this is changing – slowly…). There was ONE DANCE a year at my high school when the girls could confidently ask the boys. ONE.  Pretty sure it is the same today.

Most women WAIT to be asked to be on a board or for a promotion.

We need to inspire them to ASK.

4 – Spark Confidence Thru Learning:

These events expand women’s understanding of the resources and knowledge needed to get to the next level.
They also help women understand how to uncover and ask mentors for their guidance, how to embrace failing forward, how to support other women, how to leverage their emotions, time and money… etc.

Earlier this week, I was reading an article: “Why Women Don’t See Themselves as Entrepreneurs” and it riled me up.

…and I quote:

They’re (Women are) also less likely to have the management experience that can lead to starting a company. Just 19 percent of top executives are women, according to a LeanIn.org and McKinsey report, and a main reason they don’t rise is because they are less likely to have mentors in senior leadership.

That changes when women run companies. The gender pay gap shrinks, and women are more likely to be promoted, according to research of public companies by Linda Bell, an economist, and provost of Barnard College. “Whether by cause or effect, the presence of a top woman executive has a really robust impact,” she said.

This leads beautifully into the last “reason” events like WomanUp are so necessary.

5 – Seeing is Believing:

We need these events to see and meet OTHER WOMEN who have done it, to hear their stories of success and their lessons learned in the failed attempts. We need to see women who have successfully raised capital since we consistently hear that women “don’t do it well”.

When we SEE IT (and hear it) we believe we can do it.

Quoting from the same article above: 

“The reason (more women aren’t starting their own companies/leading), according to the research: People with experience mentor and give money to people like themselves, while those starting out do what they see people like themselves doing. In other words, we all live in bubbles — not just in our politics or our friendships, but also in our careers — and this shapes the ideas we form. Social scientists describe the phenomenon as homophily, or love of the same.

“Women are just outside of those established networks, and if you’re outside the networks, you don’t get the knowledge, you don’t get the opportunities, you don’t get the contacts and you don’t get the funding,” said Susan Coleman, a business professor at the University of Hartford and co-author of the Third Way report. She wrote it with Alicia Robb, a research fellow at the University of Colorado, Boulder, and the founder of Next Wave Ventures, for female angel investors.”


It would be remiss of me to avoid discussing one of the biggest misconceptions.

What is it?   They believe that these events are PRO-women and ANTI-men.

There could be nothing farther than the truth.

Women understand the power of collaboration.

We BELIEVE we are better together.

We recognize we need YOU – our brothers, fathers, grandfathers, husbands, uncles, and sons – to be part of the conversations.

Gentleman, YOU are at the tables RIGHT NOW.

We need you to look around and speak up.

We need you to look to the seats to your left and right and ask WHERE ARE THE WOMEN?

If you are on a panel and there are no women included (and there should be)  – ask why.

We can’t ask those questions where we aren’t even invited yet.

We want you to encourage us to step up and into our greatness… as we have done for you for millennia.

We will add value. We will add perspective. We will add wisdom.

Seeing is believing.

To the mothers, fathers, and the tribes out there raising the next generation – now is the time to teach our children these lessons. Speak into and over them. Let’s pray these gender issues will not be present when they enter the workforce someday!


I pray this read has helped to ignite and inspire you to do some introspection, take a look at the teams and tables you are around, ask yourself these questions, and then TAKE ACTION.

We are better together.

Now and always.



Additional resources and related reading:

How To Remove Gender Bias From the Hiring Process

A Record Percentage Of Women Don’t Have Kids. Here’s Why That Makes Sense.

“There has been a profound disconnect between the speed at which women have been asked to take full-time roles in the workplace and the rate at which we’ve adapted laws and social programs to support this drastic change in the lives of women,” writes Plank. “The reality is that if you’re both a mother and an employee, every day is a double-shift.”

This is a great article on “asking” (aka recruiting) of women for public office:
Best Way To Get Women To Run For Office? Ask Repeatedly

Still not convinced this is an issue? Want some real-world proof about what still exists out there?
Look no further than the last few days:

All-Male PR Panel Tells Women They Can Fix Sexism by ‘Speaking Up More Loudly’ 
David Bonderman Resigns From Uber Board After Sexist Remark 
Senator Kamala Harris was interrupted by her male colleagues — again.

Have a killer article you want me to add to this list?
Leave a comment below!



Listen To This On The Fire Up! Podcast