ERA brokers offer ideas for advancing women’s leadership roles

Celebrating Women's History Month and the advancement of women in leadership

ERA Real Estate celebrates Women’s History Month by identifying growth opportunities and how to overcome professional barriers for women aspiring to leadership roles in real estate.  ERA’s Hera Society, the brand’s dedicated group focused on advancing women leadership within the affiliated network and the industry, hosted a roundtable discussion to uncover actionable insights to advance greater inclusion for women in real estate leadership.

Representing more than 130 years of collective real estate experience, ERA Hera Society’s panelists explored an array of topics from responding to recent events such as the COVID-19 pandemic to redefining mentorship.

“When I started my real estate career over 30 years ago, there were very few women in leadership roles across the industry. It has been my personal mission to champion and mentor women who are passionate about our business and have a desire to become future leaders. The benefits of increasing women’s leadership in our industry are clear: we innovate faster with greater diversity and an infusion of new ideas and perspectives. The vast experience and perspectives of the many women leaders not only in the ERA network but the entire industry can help prepare and pave a path forward for aspiring women. The ERA network’s collaborative culture creates a unique environment where we can draw on insights, wisdom and ideas of our esteemed ERA® affiliated women leaders to help us all further this effort in meaningful ways.” – Sherry Chris, President and CEO of ERA® Real Estate

Impact of COVID-19 on women in real estate

Many observed that the pandemic brought to the forefront several adjustments, whether it was working virtually, navigating childcare or the accelerated adoption of technology in real estate. The COVID-19 pandemic forced greater adoption of technology and consumers ultimately welcomed new approaches.

The panelists did note that the integration of Zoom into everyday business made it easier to expand networks in ways that didn’t happen pre-Zoom, providing women greater access to ideas, advice and support.

“The full impact of COVID-19 is yet to be seen. What we do know is that COVID-19 has proved that real estate is an essential business. It accelerated the use of technology to connect and serve clients and facilitate and speed the transaction while still maintaining the fundamental human nature of real estate. Overall, I think women will be beneficiaries of this evolution in our industry as it offers more flexibility to serve their clients differently in ways that fit their multi-tasking lifestyles.” —Anna-Marie Ellison, managing partner of ERA King Real Estate headquartered in Anniston, Alabama.

Actionable Insight: Take advantage of technology to serve your clients in the ways they are looking for and use the flexibility of new ways of working to address your specific lifestyle needs. 

The necessity of challenging societal norms

The discussion uncovered observations on how societal norms still play a role in how girls are raised and educated, and as adults, how women perceive their options and expectations. Considering that women couldn’t have their own credit card until 1977, women are still catching up financially with men as they overcome past prejudices and limitations.

This is further compounded by the fact that earning gaps may impact women’s access to the capital needed to start a company. Additionally, a huge psychological barrier to opening and operating your own brokerage is taking on the financial risk – whether that’s as a couple or as a sole proprietor.

 “In today’s business environment, women have every opportunity to be the leaders and owners they want to be. Demands on time and resources can be daunting, so it may require finding creative ways to balance both professional and personal priorities. I think any woman who has made it a choice to own a brokerage should be empowered to pursue that opportunity. Traditional roles of yesterday no longer apply. It’s about surrounding yourself with the right support systems to help you achieve your goals.” — Diana Wall, SVP of Strategic Growth for ERA Real Estate.

Actionable Insight: Create more leadership pathways to enhance and expand growth opportunities for women.

Committing to challenging ourselves

Setting the bar higher as a path to increased self-confidence is critical to fueling the desire to pursue leadership roles rather than waiting to be asked. Confidence may also play an important role in taking on the financial risk of ownership. Moving into leadership roles means letting go of many day-to-day things and trusting someone else to do them, often a challenge for multi-tasking women.

The first sale you have to make is to yourself. In other words, no one will buy into you, your abilities, until you do. Be your biggest fan and your own worst critic.” — Diana Wall

 “Dream bigger, set your bar higher and don’t doubt yourself because today’s doubts are tomorrow’s limitations.” — Haley Burlage, Broker/co-owner, ERA MyPro Realty.

Actionable Insight: Define your value, own it, and leverage it.

Adding business courses to real estate education

If agents are taught to run their business like a business, they will be better prepared to run and lead their own company. Offering more business education classes aligned with real estate schools and continuing education offerings — such as P&L management, accounting principles and ROI — could better prepare women for owning a business. Additionally, the discussion emphasized helping future leaders understand the differences between managing employees and independent contractors, which is critical to success.

“The most highly attended classes offered at our company are the ones presented by outside business experts, reflecting the desire to elevate the business of real estate. It’s time to respond to that desire and position everyone for greater success.” — Cathi Sullivan, Broker/Owner, ERA Shields Real Estate.

Actionable Insight: Local, state and national associations should incorporate business courses in licensing and continuing education requirements.

Recognizing the importance of mentors

Mentors are another significant factor in promoting confidence for women in that they have an unwavering belief in their mentees. Many mentor relationships often occur naturally, growing out of mutual trust. However, women searching for a guide or counselor may need to actively expand their networks to increase the chances of finding a mentor. Some people are taken aback when asked to be a mentor, perhaps because of the commitment it implies or the formality of it. Reframing the formal term mentor as having an open-door policy for those looking for advice or guidance can increase opportunities for these types of fruitful relationships.

“Creating a personal board of directors or what I call my ‘tribe’ has proven to be a more effective path to reaping the benefits of learning from others.” — Gloria Frazier, Broker/Owner, ERA American Real Estate.

“Nothing in my career came without mentorship. Someone was grateful enough for what they had achieved to pay it forward and share what they had learned. Now I am a mentor to people open to such a relationship. Mentorship is the key to moving women forward.” — Kim Luckie, Director of Business Development, Marketing and Innovation for ERA American Real Estate.

Actionable Insight: It’s the job of the person who wants a mentor to find one. Seek mentorships with the same thoughtfulness and dedication that you would seek a new career opportunity.

Best advice given and received

When asked for the best advice they had received and given, the ERA affiliated women leaders had a great deal to share: 

  • Always be looking for where your advantage exists.
  • Find your voice and use it loudly.
  • There’s a big difference between self-centered and self-focused: it’s okay to be self-focused.
  • Be authentic. Your authentic self is the best version of you and the one that allows you to lead in what you love.
  • Stay true to who you are, no matter what.
  • Speak up. Dissent. Disagree. Silence is agreement with the status quo.
  • Ask for what you want. Be your own advocate.
  • We all have skills. We just need to showcase them.