Lauren Tussey is an editorial coordinator at REALTOR® Magazine. You can reach her at email@example.com.
Fearless in the Face of Industry Barriers
The share of female broker-owners who don’t sell rose from 32 percent to 48 percent between 2016 and 2018. Learn lessons from women in real estate who’ve overcome obstacles and taken on leadership roles.
April 18, 2019
Zoë Horneck knows the frustrations many women experience in the workforce. As a commercial real estate practitioner earlier in her career, Horneck once showed up to a property with her wealthy investor client, and the listing agent asked if Horneck’s broker—presumably a man—would be attending the showing. It wasn’t the only time someone doubted Horneck’s capabilities. Unfortunately, it’s common for women in every profession to deal with colleagues or clients who show lackluster confidence in their skills.
Both men and women can have unconscious biases that directly or indirectly undermine their colleagues, just as the listing agent undercut Horneck’s authority. But as Horneck, now vice president of product marketing and communications for Coldwell Banker, points out: “You can’t let someone make you feel small; you really need to rise above that.”
Industry Focuses on Female Empowerment
Women in real estate have indeed risen above. While the portion of nonselling female broker-owners hovered near 30 percent from 2010 though 2016, that number took a sharp turn upward between 2016 and 2018, jumping from 32 percent to 48 percent, according to the National Association of REALTORS®’ 2018 Member Profile.
In light of these statistics, it couldn’t be more fitting that the Miami chapter of CREW Network, an organization for women in commercial real estate, is hosting a forum in May titled “The Present is Female.” “CREW Network’s mission is to transform the commercial real estate industry by advancing women globally,” says Keren Marti, president of CREW Miami and national account manager for First American Title National Commercial Services. More and more women’s conferences have been cropping up across the country as a method for uniting female industry professionals. Some of these events include Florida REALTORS®’ Women in Real Estate Conference, the California Association of REALTORS®’ 2019 WomanUP! Conference, and the Redefining Leadership Conference from Women in the Housing & Real Estate Ecosystem (NAWRB).
Coldwell Banker has its own Women in Leadership Initiative that aims to unify women’s experiences, voices, and presence in real estate. Under Horneck’s leadership, Coldwell Banker received Women’s Choice Awards in 2018 and 2019 for being the most recommended company by women. Coldwell Banker also hosts monthly Women in Leadership calls, where the brand’s network of female agents and brokers are invited to engage and learn from each other. An accompanying podcast, “The Power of Women in Real Estate,” which the company launched on International Women’s Day (March 8), highlights female leaders from around the world. “As women, we need to fight for what we want much more so than our male counterparts,” Horneck says.
A Slow But Steady Movement
Despite social progress, the fight for equal representation in leadership is far from over. More than one-third of business professionals believe women face a glass ceiling in their respective industries, according to a Coldwell Banker survey, “Examining Women and Leadership,” released in March. The survey assessed the leadership and professional ambitions of 2,000 American men and women working in female-dominated industries, such as health care, education, and real estate. Additionally, men are 75 percent more likely than women to hold an executive-level position and 20 percent more likely to ask their boss directly for a raise or promotion, the survey found. Further, women in these industries are 32 percent less likely than their male peers to have ambitions for one day holding an executive position.
Tara Moore and her husband, Matt, are both working parents who co-own Tara Moore Real Estate in Orlando, Fla. Though they share the workload of child rearing and operating their business, Moore says she receives questions such as “How do you do it all?” during industry panel discussions, while her male counterparts are asked solely about business practices. But Moore has felt an empowering shift in the industry and has been approached by other female real estate professionals for guidance and advice. Many want to open their own brokerages like she did. More brokerages will likely lead to increased industry competition, but according to Moore, “it doesn’t do us any good as women to be at odds with one another.”
The progressing number of women stepping up to lead the real estate sector is encouraging, Horneck says. This upward trend has evolved into a movement for women, and Horneck wants to keep pushing it forward. “In the past few years, we’ve seen many more open and honest conversations about gender issues in our industry,” Horneck says. “This is leading to more women saying, ‘I do want an ownership role, and I do believe I can succeed.’”
The Business Power of Femininity
Moore says her female identity is an asset in real estate because it helps her connect with and emotionally support her clients through the stresses of homebuying and homeselling. “Real estate is such a wonderful industry because there can be a place for anyone who wants to do it and work hard at it,” Moore says. Her advice to practitioners—both women and men—is to personally define what success looks like. “For me, it’s time with my family. That’s something beautiful as a mom that real estate has given me—the ability to prioritize that time.”
Lori Arnold, broker-owner of Coldwell Banker Apex, REALTORS®, in Dallas, has learned how important it is to take risks in her career and says she wants all females in leadership positions to encourage other women. “It’s hard to find our own voice as women,” Arnold says. “A lot of us tend to be nurturers, and in that nurturing, you become a people pleaser. As I grew my business, I started to see that speaking up is important. I needed to advocate for my clients, for myself, and for my company.”
Arnold’s 28 years in real estate have informed her success as a leading franchise owner, much like the extensive career of Maile Aguila, senior vice president of residential sales at Swire Properties in Miami. In Aguila’s 30-plus years of real estate experience, she says her lifetime achievement is her executive-level position. Normally, she says, her type of job is occupied by a man.
Aguila sees the strong potential for future generations of women establishing themselves as leaders in real estate. “As women, we’ve empowered ourselves. Now we’re on the same playing field as men, and we’re looked at for advice,” Aguila says. “We’re gutsy; we take risks. You have to be fearless in today’s industry, and I think that today’s women are.”