Leading Women: Harriet K. Konter - A Trailblazer for Women in Real Estate
By the time Harriet K. Konter, president of Konter Realty Company in Savannah, Georgia, was named the first female president of the Georgia Association of REALTORS® in 1987, she was a 26-year veteran real estate professional who knew her way around the “all boys' club,” she says. So, when she was invited to an all-male officer meeting before taking office, and the current president asked (in a derogatory fashion) how she intended to handle the office of president, she responded, “Any damn way I want to,” and promptly left the meeting. Even in the 1980s, she says, “If a woman obtained her license, it was looked upon like she needed a hobby and was tired of being home,” says Konter.
A Georgia native, Konter was a trailblazer for women in real estate, tenacious in her passion to prove that women can hold leadership roles and make a career out of real estate. She and her husband Larry chose to enter real estate in the 1960s, after selling a family supermarket. “We (Harriet and husband Larry) were both working in Larry’s family’s supermarket. The family sold the supermarket, and we took a vacation to decide which direction we would take to provide for our young family. Larry decided a real estate career would do nicely. After one year, I became licensed, and we formed Konter Realty Company in 1961,” she says.
When she first became licensed, she said, “real estate was an all boys’ club.” However, armed with a degree from the University of Georgia and a family who believed in her, Konter chose to become active in real estate leadership roles. When she first started, she kept her involvement in her children’s school activities and community organizations. When her children were grown, she moved into real estate leadership, becoming the president of the Savannah Board of REALTORS® and its first female recipient of the REALTOR® of the Year award. She’s been a member of her local Board’s Legislative & Political Affairs Committee since 1993. She was a founding member of the Women’s Council of REALTORS® Savannah, serving as the organization’s first president in 1971 and again in 1972. She also has served as State President and National Governor of the Women’s Council of the REALTORS®.
In 2013, Women’s Council of REALTORS® Georgia founded The Harriet Konter Leadership Scholarship, which is awarded to a Council member from Georgia State each year, allowing the recipient to attend the National Women's Council Midyear Meeting in Washington, D.C. “We wanted this Scholarship endeavor to have a name that was synonymous with leadership,” says Kathy Haddock, 2013 president of Georgia. “There was only one person we could consider, and that was Harriet Konter. Mrs. Konter is a cornerstone of Georgia Real Estate and the Savannah Network, serving as President in its pioneer days.”
Change is Good
A lot has changed over the years, says Konter. “It used to be that a contract was made with a handshake and your word. Now, if anyone makes a request, it needs to be in writing whether it’s a contract or not,” says Konter, “plus, it needs to be witnessed, notarized and date stamped or it isn’t a deal.” However, she says, technology has been a boon to the industry. “It makes it so easy to reach out to agents, customers, attorneys and others in the industry, not to mention how efficient it is to have access to people rather than wait for a return phone call or snail mail.”
Passion for Real Estate
However, for all that has changed, some things stay the same—namely Konter’s strong sense of ethics and passion for the industry. At 92 years old, she comes into the office every day, choosing to remain an executive after her husband passed in 1995. “I strive to encourage those who come behind me to have the same ethics and passion for this industry that I have had over the last 46 years,” she says. But, what really keeps her active, she says, are the people. “In this industry, there are always situations created by the people in our industry that make life interesting.”
With no signs of slowing down, Konter is excited about the possibilities for women in real estate today. However, she says, success is not measured by your gender, but instead by the people with whom you surround yourself and the passion you have for your career. “Real estate is an industry that gives back what you put into it,” she says. “I have benefitted from being in real estate, and I [will continue to] 'pay it forward.'"
About the Contributor
Tracey C. Velt is a real estate and business writer and editor based in Florida.
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