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Creating a New Vision for Leadership

by Wendy Forsythe, Carrington Real Estate Services Executive Vice President and Head of Global Operations

Survey ArticleEvery year, the Swanepoel T3 Group puts out its Power 200 rankings, along with several other lists of the real estate industry’s most influential people. This year, I was selected as one of the Top 20 Trendsetters in real estate, but as I reflected upon this honor, I took a closer look at the nearly 300 people listed. I was struck by the lack of women recognized in leadership roles — not only by Swanepoel, but across the industry.

Although women make up more than half of the working real estate agents in the United States, we are sorely underrepresented in roles of influence. According to the National Association of REALTORS®, 58 percent of all REALTORS® are female, but in this year’s Swanepoel rankings, women made up only 20 percent of the leadership. Although I was proud to be recognized among the top 20 trendsetters in the real estate industry, only three women made this list (just 15 percent). Women are clearly a significant presence in the industry, but somehow, for many women, their careers aren’t escalating into leadership roles. I have to wonder: Why does this happen? And what can we do as women and real estate professionals to remedy this?

I began to look back over my own career and the path I took to get where I am today for clues. After more than 20 years working in virtually every facet of the real estate industry, what advice could I offer to other women real estate professionals as they make their way in our business? Here are three things I think can help every woman succeed and become a trendsetter in her own right — whether her goals include balancing being a successful agent and mother, or becoming a local office manager or rising to executive leadership at the corporate level.

1. Align yourself with the right people. It seems simple enough to do, but finding a brokerage and company that offers innovative leadership and a strong support system is critical. Align yourself with those who are committed to actively engaging, supporting and empowering women in whatever role they fill in the industry. Don’t stop looking until you find what fits your needs and your career (and life) goals.

2. Be true to yourself. Whether you want to be an amazing agent, a corporate vice president or run your own company someday, know what you want to achieve and go after it. Don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone and follow your vision — and don't think you have to do it how others have done it before you. My path to success is not necessarily yours. Use others’ work for inspiration and guidance, but ultimately, finding your own path to success is critical to taking your career to the next level.

3. Find a champion and be a champion. Making your way to a long and successful career in real estate means not going it alone. You don’t have to blaze a trail all by yourself. Find someone who will champion your career, someone who will mentor and coach you along the path you want to take in the real estate industry. And once you've found someone who supports you, be that person for someone else. Be a leader, a mentor and a coach for others. That’s how we as women can really help other women in the industry: by sharing what we’ve learned and encouraging others to go after their goals, whatever they may be.

Women make up a significant part of the real estate business, but this is not reflected in the current leadership picture. That needs to change. The real estate industry has been around for more than 200 years and today, more than ever, our industry needs innovators and visionaries that can do a better job of supporting and promoting women across the industry in a wide variety of roles – from agents to office managers to corporate executives and everything in between. If we, as women, start taking the necessary steps to escalate our careers into roles of influence, change will come.

Editor's Note: Over 65% of Women's Council members are leaders in their association, community, or in politics. 25% of the NAR Board of Directors hold membership with Women's Council. Women's Council members are the leaders paving the way for women in the REALTOR® community. Click here for more information on the benefits of joining Women's Council.

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