Bridging the Gender Gap in Community Management Entrepreneurship

By Cat Carmichael
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While women are significant contributors in all aspects of community association management, they remain underrepresented in business entrepreneurship. As we celebrate Women’s History Month in March, I want to make the case for the need to boost women’s executive presence and leadership footprint in the industry.

CAI does a great job with opportunities for women. For example, of the 58 staffed CAI chapters, 80% of the chapters are led by women. A majority of faculty and PCAM designation holders also are women.

As a community association financial professional, I have funded scores of management companies across the country mostly headed by fantastic—and male—entrepreneurs. My observations are anecdotal, but I’ve noticed many Accredited Association Management Companies tend to be owned by men too.

How can we bridge the gender gap from fantastic female executives to successful female entrepreneurs?

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In 2018, when I started my company to help business owners create exit plans that maximized the value of their life’s work, one girlfriend gave me a small sign that still sits on my desk today. It says, “She believed she could, so she did.”

I’ve noticed a clear gender disparity in my work.

Of the dozen management company owners/operators I’ve supported, only two were female. The gender gap is even more pronounced for potential buyers. Only one company was purchased by a private equity group headed by a female investor/entrepreneur.

There are excellent high-level positions in community management that provide outstanding lifestyles, stable income, and reliable benefits. True wealth is realized by business ownership. I believe being a good community manager also can make women good business owners. Women must expand their knowledge and confidence before taking the leap into business ownership/entrepreneurship. Here are some suggestions to do that:

  • Access sources for female entrepreneurship. Subscribe to the free ForbesWomen weekly newsletter.
  • Learn how successful HOA management businesses can create high returns on investment.
  • Understand lending and financial risk compared to self-funding a business.
  • Decide what type of company you want. Will it be a company that supports you or an attractive asset?
  • Avoid the tendency to overserve clients. Charge for extraordinary service.

For me, entrepreneurship met a vital need I saw for management company owners who deserve value for their hard work. After 35 years serving the community association housing model, it also provided me the career success for which I am most proud.

I believed I could, so I did.

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Cat Carmichael

Cat Carmichael, a CAI past president, is CEO of Strategy 123 in Broomfield, Colo.