Barbara Corcoran says women have a 'great advantage' over men


With companies like Uber under fire for cultures rampant with sexual harassment and reports uncovering gender discrimination in start-up funding, real estate dynamo Barbara Corcoran is looking to level the playing field.

"Men can get halfway up the mountain and say, 'It's my mountain, I'm the king of the mountain.' But women have to get to the top, set up camp and decorate the kitchen before they'll say, 'I think I had something to do with this!' " Corcoran recently said in an exclusive interview with AOL Finance.

Prior to landing her "Shark Tank" gig, Corcoran famously founded The Corcoran Group in 1973 on a $1,000 loan from her then-boyfriend, a company she later sold for $66 million in 2001. While she had a natural knack for sales and marketing, the entrepreneur initially struggled to be heard in boardrooms with the biggest developers in New York, because she "wanted to be a nice girl."

From within the boardrooms, Corcoran crafted a helpful mantra: What would a man do? When spoken over or brushed aside, the question helped her speak up, raise her hand, take credit and be heard -- something you'll still see her do on "Shark Tank," as "it's very hard to talk over those men."

She also leveraged what she calls a "great advantage" of being a woman.

"I used my feminine charm as much as I could. "How handsome you are,' I'd say. I've never met a man who didn't believe he wasn't handsome. And then I'd take my piece of the pie," she said.

"I used it all. Whatever knife drawer I had -- male or female -- I pulled those knives out and used them."

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Due to her playful mantra verbal tricks and an eye-catching signature crimson wardrobe, Corcoran by all accounts was able to succeed in a male-dominated industry -- and she's now encouraging other women to do the same. The famous founder has partnered with T.J. Maxx for The Maxx You Project, which aims to encourage and mentor real American women to pursue their passions.

Corcoran recently sat with 80 women in a one-day intensive workshop to demonstrate how to craft business plans and elevator pitches to help turn their dreams and ideas into a reality.

"We're in a different world. We still have a tremendous amount of stereotyping. What I like about The Maxx You project is the emphasis is on you -- what's individual about you, what's the inspiration that gets you going," she said. "These women have no idea how powerful they're going to feel once they get out and do it."

Eighty percent of women feel they are stereotyped by society into specific roles and expectations, according to a recent survey commissioned by T.J. Maxx, but Corcoran has proven that it's more than possible to break the so-called mold.

"Women are amazing. They do things differently than men do and to great advantage. I built a huge empire with women when everybody else was a guy, and you know what? That was my secret sauce."

See photos from the Maxx You Project workshop: