Women Can Help Each Other Get Ahead in Real Estate

Female brokers talk about the path to leadership and fostering a community of support for women who want to rise in the ranks.
Women working together

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Women in real estate should mentor and support other women, building up each other’s confidence to achieve higher echelons in the industry, female brokers said at the Coldwell Banker Gen Blue conference in Las Vegas. It’s an important time to empower women, considering they account for 63 percent of the real estate workforce but hold 8 percent fewer leadership positions, said Carla Hayes, director of industry and public relations at Coldwell Banker Real Estate.

Shattering the glass ceiling can be difficult. Whether it’s working as a single mom, building self-confidence alongside male colleagues, or ascending the ranks at a male-dominated brokerage, there are many challenges that should bring women together. A panel of female brokers spoke about the hurdles in their own careers and offered tips for how women in leadership roles can influence change in the industry.

Women promoting women. Lori Arnold, broker-owner of Coldwell Banker Apex, REALTORS®, in McKinney, Texas, recalled starting in real estate at 19 years old, working for an office that grew from five sales associates to 800 over several years. “I started realizing how few women were in those positions,” Arnold said. “We need to make sure we are promoting, supporting, and giving women the same opportunities.”

Arnold said women need to find their voices in the business and help others acknowledge that balancing parenthood with a career has different connotations for women and men. She said she empathizes with single moms who have a baby carrier under their desk. She tried to exude “having it all” and encouraged and supported others in the same circumstance. “As women, we carry a lot of guilt about what we’re doing because we’re busy working, and we never feel like we’re good enough at what we’re trying to do,” Arnold said. “You’re trying to juggle a lot of things as a woman, and we have to support one another. Sometimes, we’re the first to be critical of another woman instead of saying, ‘I’m here for you.’”

Creating a more welcoming culture. Sheri Arnold, CCIM, president of Coldwell Banker Commercial Arnold and Associates in Beaumont, Texas, said she built an all-female sales team and a company culture of sticking together like a family. “We found women are better listeners and understand more about the needs of our clients,” she said.

Embracing your individuality. “One of the things women struggle with is we don’t believe in ourselves as much as men,” said Talisa Bealum, GRI, branch manager at Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in Auburn, Calif. “If [men] get an opportunity, they think they’ve earned it. If we get an opportunity, we look at ourselves and ask if we can handle it. Our mindset can hold us back.”

Bealum, a black woman, said she sees her career through the prism of both her race and gender. Oftentimes, when she walks into a room, she doesn’t see anyone else who looks like her. When that happens, she takes a breath and centers herself, she said. “I have mentally prepared that I am the only one who looks like me,” Bealum said. “That has given me an edge and purpose and led me to be more confident in myself.”

Believing in your abilities. Leslee MacKenzie, broker-owner of Coldwell Banker Hickok & Boardman Realty in Burlington, Vt., said she earned a business degree and worked in retail management before beginning her real estate career. She said she wanted to give other women such a chance at her brokerage, creating a management team made up of five women and one man. Four of the women, she said, are single moms who support each other.

MacKenzie said that young women need the self-confidence to pursue any goal, even if the path to get there isn’t clear. No matter your career, skills are transferrable, she added. “We think when we’re new to something, we need to know everything before we apply. We have to have more confidence in ourselves that we have the aptitude and knowledge and that we can apply for the job and get it.”

Confident Decision-Making

Arnold recalled a trip to New York, where she saw an art display with “yes” and “no” buttons. Nearly all the no buttons were removed, and that got her thinking about her own career path. “I thought about all of the things I was afraid to say yes to and how, if I never said yes, I wouldn’t be running the company today,” Arnold said. “You know what? If you fail, so what? You learn from failure, too, not just from success. Being willing to say yes is huge for women.”

MacKenzie warned, however, that sometimes women are “predisposed to say yes to things they shouldn’t. … Learn both words.”

Don’t be afraid to make decisions for yourself and your business, said Lindi Braddock, broker-owner of Coldwell Banker Properties Unlimited in Brenham, Texas. “Just take care of your clients and go for it—get up and do it,” Braddock said. “It’s an amazing ride.” But even if you say yes to something, you can always change your mind, Bealum added. “If you make a decision, and it’s not the right decision, make another. You’re not stuck just because you made one. You can always change your mind and do something different.”

Bealum said women don’t have to be humble in order to pave their path in business and life. She said women tend not to go for leadership roles and pounce on professional opportunities because they’ve been taught not to be as aggressive as men. “What’s important to me is to make sure I take each and every opportunity granted to me—and take full advantage of it—and let people know my intention if I want to choose a certain path.”