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Celebrating Women's History Month with Colleen Barry, CEO of Gibson Sotheby's International Realty

Colleen Barry Photo by Asia Kepka.

Photo by Asia Kepka.

The campaign theme for Women's History Month in 2021 is #ChooseToChallenge meaning we can and should choose to challenge and call out gender bias and inequality and create a more inclusive world. What does this mean for you in your professional life?

That's a big question. For some reason, this comes to mind: a few years ago, I bought a shirt that says "Empowered Women Empower Women." I was telling a colleague who I considered to be a very wise woman leader, and she said, "The shirt is wrong; Empowered Women Empower EVERYONE." That has stayed with me. I think that women leaders are keenly aware that the world is not ours to take for ourselves; we need to be wise, thoughtful leaders who empower those around us who want to contribute to a better company, a better community, a better world. And in a world where gender is a hot button topic, we shouldn't be afraid of new perspectives or new voices those are the very things that make us stronger and more resilient.

Youve had a dynamic career path, having led both marketing and productivity efforts at Gibson Sotheby's International Realty before your role as CEO, and even publishing a book. As we celebrate Women's History Month, tell us about how youve found your way and made those transitions.

While my career path has looked unconventional to a lot of people, I think the simplest explanation for how I ended up here is that I have tried to be the best version of each role that I could be. To me that means thinking about what the most basic purpose of each role has been and to be devoted to that cause. A great example is Director of Productivity that was a brand new role and a newly created title. So, how do you do that well? I kept in mind what Larry and Paul, our co-owners, asked me to do: help our agents grow and reach their goals. My job became two-fold: learn how successful people create their success, and learn how to coach. I interviewed a lot of people, read a lot of books, wrote letters, took classes, etc. And in the end, I wrote what was intended to be a primer for agents to set and attain goals. That ended up becoming that little book you mentioned.

Whats the most important piece of advice youd give to a woman thinking of starting a career in real estate?

I think the advice I have for a woman entering any business is to set clear goals for yourself. Then figure out what skills, knowledge, and relationships you will need to get you there. By "relationships" I mean that mentors are a big part of what it takes to learn faster. They can give you another perspective to help you overcome obstacles and to grow from each experience. I am so grateful to have had really great mentors and I hope that I can be a good one, as well.

What qualities make a great leader?

A great leader surrounds herself with smart, caring people and empowers them to do their jobs. Then, she gets out of their way. She does what she can to help others reach their goals. She strives to make a positive impact on those around her. I know that, at times, it can feel like the world's problems are so big that one person can't even make a dent in them. But, if you focus on those around you, you can create a sea change that can spread to others.

What did you dream of doing when you were a child?

I wanted to be a first responderI was always an EMT or police officer or firefighter when I played as a child. I think I was drawn to helping people. And then I grew up and I went to work. I would read that everyone was following their calling. Everywhere I turned, I heard, "follow your passion." I am someone who has a lot of interests, so it was hard to distill what I love into one thing. Then I asked myself, "When have you felt most fulfilled in your life or in your work?" And the answer was clear: it was when I helped someone achieve something they wanted to accomplish. I realized that my passion is helping others achieve their goals.

What woman inspires you and why?

There are a number of women who inspire me these days: My mom is the biggest one. She raised two kids as a young, single mother and worked very hard to give us a great life. She brought us to art shows and poetry readings. We watched documentaries and old movies. We listened to jazz and folk music. She gave us a really full upbringing on a shoestring budget. Dolly Parton is someone I would consider to be a national treasure she is one of the most decorated and prolific songwriters to have ever lived. She has done so much for children's literacy, and she recently funded a COVID vaccine that's a hard one to top! She is a totally self-made woman. Jen Richards is a writer, actress, and activist for trans rights. She has made such eloquent arguments for why there needs to be better and more positive trans representation in the media. I am so grateful for her voice.

Colleen Barry can be reached at 617.875.8166 or To learn more about Colleen, click here.

To learn more about Women's History Month, click here.

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