The BOYS Club… Sooooo Where The Girls Club At?



By Sarah Malcolm, COO of The Content Funnel

I first want to give the “BOYS” a shout out. As a Mom of 3 boys I have nothing but love for you guys.  

Let me start with our CEO and my partner Michael Beckerman. He recently wrote a blog, Lack of Diversity in CREtech. My Failure. My Pledge. If you haven’t read it, I highly suggest you do. It’s an open letter pledging his support and commitment to expanding diversity in tech. Truly amazing. And he has been living by this pledge for years. It’s not because this is a trendy topic. He is legit leading this movement and 100% committed.

The same day that blog came out my good friend Dalia Strum (who is truly a Girls Club Leader… more to come on that) texted me a screenshot of a LinkedIn post where Damon Berger, Head of Digital Engagement at Mattel, Inc., said, “I just received a speaker invite for an all male panel at a well known digital conference. Again. To everyone requesting panel participation in your conferences—I will not accept if there are not also women participating in equal numbers. I encourage all of you who read this to do the same. It’s 2019. Enough already.”

Again... amazing. I LOVE that men are stepping up and taking a stand to help women. We need it. Unfortunately, the gender gap is still large and in charge. That’s where my blog title comes in. Where The Girls Club At? For years and all throughout my career, I have watched men stick together. They have had each other’s backs, been a team, have cheered each other on, have fought for each others success and it has really been impressive how they have this tight boys club where it’s truly a ride or die situation. So why aren’t we doing the same? Or are we?

I watched my mother, Mary Lou Fiala, now retired and previous President and COO of Regency Centers, break down the glass ceilings as one of the first woman at Federated Department Stores on the executive committee, first senior officer at Regency Centers and one of the first female COO’s and presidents in Commercial Real Estate.  

She worked her way up in the 80’s and 90’s and it was amazing to watch her grow in such a male dominated business world. I also loved how she cheered other women on and helped to build solid careers for other women. She was never a hater. Ever. She also started the Mary Lou Fiala Fellowship at ICSC which is a unique year-long leadership and professional development program to prepare bright and talented young women for senior-level executive positions in the retail real estate industry. I called her up and asked her what can we, as women, do better? She said, “Where you can start is to look at your coworkers… How can you do something everyday to support and educate them, learn from them and let them learn from you.” She goes on to say, “It can be overwhelming because it’s such a big issue so make this a small issue in your world and do what you can individually to empower women in your world daily.”

Another woman I LOVE working with is Linda Day Harrison, CEO at The Broker List. She  always wants to see women win. She has been a huge supporter of mine and seeing her become such a cheerleader for others is remarkable. She is also a very active CREW member to help women in the industry. Love her!

So back to “Where the Girls Club At”… As women, are we doing all we can to help each other? I am honestly not sure. Sometimes, I see quite the opposite which has me scratching me head… So I called my good friend Linda Miles, Psychotherapist and Author of Change Your Story and Change Your Brain and she had some interesting perspective which was very helpful. She said, “I asked my son when he graduated school, if he ever felt left out throughout his years at school, and he looked at me weird and said ‘no, not at all.” She went on to explain, “If you are there with a group of guys you are automatically a part of the group, you are on the team, no questions asked. Women, however tend to get into smaller groups but if you are there you are not automatically apart of it. There is a tension that is there of who’s in and who’s out as little girls.” So how can we do better as adults? Can we change that narrative?

I have been so lucky to have amazing friends and co-workers who cheer me on, make me better, help me and it’s a personal passion of mine to watch other women succeed and help build their careers. When I see another woman kicking A$$ I feel proud, empowered, I want to jump in, roll up my sleeves and be a part of helping to grow her success and see her win. So what I ask is, can we as women come together even more than we already are? Can we form a Girls Club that is even more inclusive than what we have seen in the past? Can we do better at giving women a shout out, a cheer, a helping hand, encouragement, more money, more flexibility for raising a family and working, have her back, really anything to help close this gender gap and give talented women the ability to be their best?

The purpose of this blog is to ask, what can you do? How can you help? What can you do on your end? These are the questions I constantly ask myself. I believe everyone is apart of the solution and us ladies need to stick together! Let’s allow everyone in on “the team,” automatically.  We need to have each other’s backs. And you can best believe, I’ve got your back!

I think it’s important to not only talk about the problem but come with solutions. So here are some of my favorite, successful and powerful women that I admire giving us some serious knowledge. I asked them, what can we do to be better?

And this is what they had to say…


Dalia Strum

Founder of Rethink Connect

“Find your tribe - surround yourself with people who will lift you up and support you on your journey. Make sure you invest in people because it needs to be a two way relationship. My closest friends started as business relationships first and now we support each other through everything.

Be a giver - Don't ever ask anyone for anything before you're willing to offer something first. This increases trust in relationships, and creates a desire to be reciprocal. The first question I ask anyone is how can I be helpful?

Share - Share resources, share opportunities, share contacts, share information. This creates good karma and people will come back with things to offer next time.

Create opportunities - whether they are in person or virtual, its a great strategy to network and relationship build. These could include panels, networking events or even webcasts. My podcast has been a great outlet to reconnect with colleagues and meet new ones.”


Angela Sweeney

Vice President & Chief Marketing Officer at The Peterson Companies

“Having spent my entire career in the predominantly male commercial real estate industry - I have been blessed with strong female role models that were instrumental to my professional growth and success. They were my advocates and cheerleaders but equally important - they offered constructive criticism that helped me become a better leader and person. These women continue to be a source of inspiration for me and I strive to live up to their example and pay it forward with the new generation of women leaders.”


Amanda Bowen

Director of Business Development at The Content Funnel

“I think there are small things and big things woman can do for themselves and each-other. A small thing is just to acknowledge a good thing either by saying it to her in person or  via email. If you think a fellow woman spoke well at a meeting, did a great presentation, send out a well crafted and effective email-acknowledge it. This small gesture has a huge general people don't praise enough or recognize the good, especially woman.Open up that communication by sending a little note or stopping them in the hall. Communication will be opened and so will a new relationship. For a bigger thing, I encourage any woman who is trying to climb in corporate America to invest some time reading books aimed at helping woman identify their bad habits or belief systems and empower themselves in business. Woman are socially trained in way that are extremely detrimental to being successful in business. You must be aware of your shortcomings first so you can change them. Educate yourself and do better!”


Kristen Moore

Chief Marketing Officer at Brixmor Property Group

“I’m not sure that it is unique to women, but I think it is extremely important to help anyone who is looking for a job.  If someone reaches out for help with connections, feedback on their resume or a reference, I will push this task to the top of my To-Do list.  Throughout my career, people I have known, and not known, have helped me at critical steps in my career search. Finding a job is an emotional, often time critical, mission, so I think it is important to share your resources (time, knowledge and connections) to help out.”


Cherilyn Kawa Megill

Chief Marketing Officer at Phillips Edison & Company

“I’m proud to be a founder and co-chair of PECO NOW (Networking Opportunities for Women) which provides leadership opportunities to women at Phillips Edison through advocacy, support and development. I love being part of this group that serves as a great source for women in our company with everything from networking and educational opportunities to informal lunch and learns. We have also developed a New Parents Support Guide and will soon be rolling out an Aging Parents Support Guide. We would love if other CRE companies started a similar type group to continue to grow the numbers of leaders in our industry. If your company has a program like this, get involved or get active with CREW, ICSC or other industry groups. A wise woman once told me – your network is your net worth.

The other piece of advice is to not be afraid to ask for what you want. I recently was having a conversation with someone who wanted to grow with their company but had not communicated this goal with their manager. Their manager had no idea that they were interested in management and now this person is receiving additional development opportunities.”


Diana Perry

Vice President, Marketing & Social Media at Linear Retail Properties

“Be kind and always speak your mind. Don’t be a yes person, respond critically, thoughtfully and genuinely. To help build women up in CRE, be all inclusive. Sometimes in our industry you get characterized as being a marketing person, a leasing person, a vendor etc. and people only associate if they can benefit. The classic live by the golden rule.”  


Anne Marie Stephen

President at Street Fight

“Show up - Most of life happens by showing up for yourself and for others. If a women led event or initiative is on your radar and/or you have been invited, show up. If you, can't show up, then share the opportunity with your female colleagues and peers and ask them to show up. Women make a mark by being visible and present on the business landscape.

Take the call - Most opportunities happen by being open. If you are in a position to make a decision or even be an influencer, when a woman in business calls, take the call. You may not be interested or in need of the product or service being offered, that's fine.

Refer - When you are referring business and speaking opportunities give some thought to putting your women colleagues and peers at the top of your list and among those you are referring for business opportunities or new roles you are looking to fill or you think would make a great candidate for a role.

Invite - Keep your female colleagues and peer top of mind when opportunities arise: speaking, networking events, etc.”


Sandhya Espitia

Senior Vice President at REBNY

“Women still have to be extremely disciplined about producing good work, voicing superior ideas and showing up at places outside of their comfort zone. We don’t have the luxury to be inconsistent or to get comfortable. It takes constant effort, true intention and grit. That’s how we move up and into the c-suite. It’s a collective mindset and we should open the gates for our female peers. Identify talent, good work and endorse it. 100 women at a time.”

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