Women-Owned Series: Arbitrator and Mediator, Erin Gleason Alvarez
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Realty Collective owner, Victoria Alexander, often runs into Erin Gleason Alvarez at a co-working space for women called The Wing. We are thrilled to feature her in this edition of our women-owned series. Read about Erin below and her company, which empowers women to take charge of negotiations, here!
What was your path to becoming an arbitrator and mediator?
When I was a kid, I was always grounded for being argumentative. At some point, I saw an episode of LA Law and realized that I could get PAID (and wear completely fabulous clothes) for arguing. I can remember playing “house” with my friends and saying, “You’re gonna want to sell this house someday. Let me help you get a contract for that.”
I graduated from law school in 2000. At first, I worked in law firms as a litigator but that never felt right to me – too much stress, too much arguing! So I went back to law school for a second round, earning a Masters in Law this time, focused on negotiation. While arguing had always been sport for me, with experience I realized it wasn’t necessarily a healthy sport.
I went on to serve as Global Head of Dispute Resolution for a Fortune 50 company, where it was my job to teach people about negotiation and how to resolve disputes without the headache and expense involved in court litigation.
Two years ago, I left that post to start my own mediation and arbitration practice – focusing on the resolution of commercial and insurance disputes in efficient and productive ways. Earlier this year, I founded Take Charge Negotiations™, LLC in order to teach women how to succeed in negotiations by incorporating mindful practices at the bargaining table.
Tell us about your company and why you feel connected to it.
Take Charge Negotiations is the second child I didn’t know I would I give birth to. I created this company because I had served as a behind-the-scenes negotiation advisor to many of my girlfriends. The reservations shared by my girls were largely the same… fear of asking for too much, looking too pushy, ruining the relationship…. Last year it finally dawned on me that these concerns were not only shared by my friends, but many women.
So I sought to develop a more positive dialogue around women and negotiation. Take Charge Negotiations was born to reinforce for women that we are already highly skilled negotiators, despite all the conditioning otherwise. Sometimes we just need to be reminded of the power we do have, and the importance of staying focused in negotiations – even if it feels like the decks are stacked against us.
What is your experience working within the Brooklyn community?
Now that I work from home, in Flatbush, I rarely leave Brooklyn. While my clients are located all over, on a day to day basis I don’t need to travel far. Every now and then, I work from The Wing in DUMBO, which is a tremendously supportive and collaborative environment for women (and how I came to be featured on this blog!). Through The Wing, I’ve forged new inspirations and collaborations with other female business owners – including my upcoming class, Mindful Negotiation Summer Camp: How to Focus and Thrive in Any Dialogue, where we’ll explore how to use visualization, meditation, active listening and other mindful practices in order to have more positive negotiation experiences (and outcomes)!
Any advice for women thinking of going into your field or opening business of their own?
For everything success I have earned, I was previously told that it would never happen. I’ve been told that I am too young, my degrees are not pedigreed enough, I’m inexperienced, my experience is too niched, I don’t have a niche, my hair is too blonde, I wear dresses too often, I’m too aggressive, I don’t present well, I am in it for myself, I’m unrealistic, I’m too nice, I’m not nice enough.
Lucky for me, I have the ability to channel hate to power for me.
My advice is to listen to your gut. I think we can make anything happen if we want it enough. As women, it’s harder to do that for ourselves sometimes though. So make sure you have a personal board of directors – people who you trust and who are invested in your success. That has made all the difference for me.
A law degree is power. If you are thinking of going, know that it is an asset that you can always utilize.