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Women Who Aren’t Leaders Still Have Power

March 24, 2021

It’s a common observation that the real estate profession is made up of 60% women, yet they don’t hold nearly that level of representation in industry leadership positions. There’s still an urgent need to further diversify the power structure in brokerages and beyond. But female real estate pros who aren’t interested in pursuing higher industry roles shouldn’t be made to feel less important or influential, women broker-owners said Tuesday during the fourth installment of the Chicago Association of REALTORS®’ Women’s History Month webinar series.

“Many women have chosen not to go the corporate route because their passion is in the field, in sales,” Susan Yannaccone, president and CEO of Realogy Franchise Group, said during the webinar “Titans of Industry: A Fireside Chat with Leading Female Executives.” “Women who don’t sit in positions of power still have power,” she said. “They can be the diverse voice in the room, which has historically been lacking.”

From a young age, women aren’t exposed to potential professional opportunities as often as men, which contributes to discrepancies in workplace representation, said Tami Bonnell, CEO of EXIT Realty Corp. International. “People become what we tell them they can be,” Bonnell said.

Still, for many women, their passion is working one-on-one with clients, educating and guiding them through a complex transaction. Those women should know that they don’t need to give up working in the field for a corporate gig in order to make an impact on the industry, Yannaccone added. But women who aspire to something more—whether it be growing their business or their influence in the industry—should give themselves grace through the growing pains, she said.

The idea of “having it all” is particularly seductive to women, who often push themselves beyond their reasonable limits to achieve a certain status or recognition, Yannaccone said. Women need to be extra careful about overextending themselves and should be more comfortable saying no, even to enjoy activities that may get in the way of work-life balance, Bonnell added.

“I was so over the top with trying to show everyone that I could ‘do it all’—I was commuting back and forth with a baby in my lap,” Yannaccone recalled. “I leaned in in a way that I hope nobody feels an obligation to do in order to continue on their path.”

Groups are emerging online that are “deliberately having the conversation with women that there are plenty of options in the workforce,” Bonnell said. She added that women can have the most control over their careers when they “stay in the present.”

“The more you stay in present tense, the more control you have over your day,” Bonnell said. “If you can start your day in a position of control and keep going back to the things that give you a sense of personal power, you can do anything.” Bonnell advises keeping close ties with people who encourage you but keep you grounded and realistic. “You want someone who tells you when you’re doing too much and need to delegate more,” she said.