Barbara Corcoran isn’t known for her political correctness — quite the opposite.
She says what she thinks and doesn’t hold back, and sometimes it gets her in trouble. Such was the case, minus the trouble, when we chatted on-set recently with the spunky real estate mogul about “running a business as a woman in a man’s world.”
The key to smashing the gender barrier in the working world, Corcoran tells Entrepreneur, is to play the gender card, not to keep it tucked in your pocket. In other words, she says, “work your female attributes” to your advantage. She’s not talking about wearing bright colors and yanking up your skirt to get attention, ladies. Not this time.
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No, this time, after defending her controversial views on the topic, she’s singing a new tune about the non-physical attributes she claims help females stand out and succeed in business.
“People skills are where women really shine in ways that men don’t,” she says. “We’re better bridge builders, we collaborate better, we don’t stand on ceremony or ego, we’re willing to share credit and we’re more intuitive and trust our gut more. We’re just better at running businesses than men.”
Corcoran, who, much to the chagrin of many feminists, admits to wearing her “skirts really high” to get attention in meetings, asserts that the aforementioned attributes are the soft-skill talents women naturally possess “that men just don’t have in the same proportion.” And, as she sees it, “there’s nothing wrong with using them to our advantage.”
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The multi-millionaire Corcoran Group founder, who penned the 2004 book If You Don't Have Big Breasts, Put Ribbons on Your Pigtails and Other Lessons I've Learned From My Mom, adds that while women can be “just as competitive,” they’re more willing to “join hands for a common goal, much more readily than men.”
Whether you agree with her often polarizing, brutally honest opinions or not, it’s hard to argue with the 67-year-old Shark’s assertion that women still have a long way to go in the battle to succeed in the male-dominated world of entrepreneurship, and they have to be resourceful to get ahead. (It’s also hard to argue with the daunting women-owned business failure rates.) How you choose to dig in and break through is up to you.
Corcoran, who was originally turned down for a role on Shark Tank but fought for her spot, suggests starting with attracting media attention. She did in the early 1980s, when she was quoted in the New York Times for her real estate expertise. “Reporters depend on statistics for stories,” she told Inc. “I figured if I could dole them out, I’d always get quoted.”
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Her own publicity strides (and stunts) aside, Corcoran says the media needs to shine a spotlight more on women-owned businesses for female entrepreneurship to thrive. “We need more high-profile female-founded startups to get the media coverage they deserve.” she says. “When they do, those guys — and I’ll say ‘guys’ for investors because you know that’s who’s listening to pitches — will be thinking, ‘Could she be the next big successful female entrepreneur?’ But there aren’t enough of us out there who succeed. The more of us who do, and the more you hear about us in the news, the better it will get.”
For more of Corcoran’s insights, catch her on the season eight premiere of Shark Tank on Sept. 23 at 9 p.m. ET on your local ABC station.