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Why having women at the top is just good business

LeadingRE CEO's message to women in real estate: 'You can't always be popular'

Real estate companies promote women more often than corporate America. The industry’s associations, however, are not doing as well in this arena, said Pam O’Connor, CEO of Leading Real Estate Companies of the World (LeadingRE).

O’Connor spoke to Inman after her talk on women and leadership at this week’s National Association of Realtors conference and expo, and had a strong message for women who feel they are not in a company that gives them the opportunities they seek — move on.

She would also like to see more example-setting from the conference host itself: like a woman taking Dale Stinton’s place as CEO of NAR when the time comes.

Slide from LeadingRE CEO Pam O'Connor's presentation at the NAR conference.

Slide from LeadingRE CEO Pam O’Connor’s presentation at the NAR conference.

“It would be fun if they could find a capable woman for that job,” she said. “Other than the General Counsel, Katie Raynolds Johnson and Janet Branton, the senior vice president of commercial and global services, there are not many women there at NAR.”

Out of the top association leaders, five out of 20 are women, she said.

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The management of MLSs, too, still tends to be too “suit-heavy,” O’Connor added, possibly because tech skills are required in certain top positions.

Gender agnostic

O’Connor looked at The Inman 101, the Swanepoel Power 200 and Real Trends’ broker/owners list to get an idea of the percentage of women who are highly ranked in the industry. In the 2016 Swanepoel Power top 100, just 19 out of the 100 were women, while the Inman 101 list had at least 40 women.

Talking about the need for more women in business generally she said: “It’s not only because of the traits women have; they also make so many purchasing decisions (83 percent) as consumers.”

Slide from LeadingRE CEO Pam O'Connor's presentation at the NAR conference.

Slide from LeadingRE CEO Pam O’Connor’s presentation at the NAR conference.

The real estate business can be agnostic about gender, she said, based on her own experiences. She made the point that it’s important not to be a victim, or the chicken worrying about everyone else. Instead, strive to be a lifelong learner.

She drew from Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In to point out that women will not try for a job unless they feel fully qualified, whereas men will put jump in and “figure it out.”

“Women are very ethical; they feel like if can’t do 100 percent of job, they don’t try for it,” she said. “You have choices. If you are in untenable situation you can either try to change it, confront it, accept it or leave.”

‘Often wrong, never in doubt’

The LeadingRE CEO warned against women isolating themselves in women’s groups: “I see a lot of women who just hang out with women, women’s groups, those people doing the hiring are often men so you need to cultivate those conversations, too.”

O’Connor said she was approached by an attractive woman after her talk who said she was often propositioned by husbands when pitching for a listing. O’Connor’s advice was to focus on the wife. “When these guys do stuff, you just say, ‘You need to respect who I am.’”

Slide from LeadingRE CEO Pam O'Connor's presentation at the NAR conference.

Slide from LeadingRE CEO Pam O’Connor’s presentation at the NAR conference.

And women have to realize that a position at the top will come with its problems.

It does concern me that some women don’t want to raise their hands, or are afraid to. – Pam O’Connor

“You can’t always be popular. You have to take positions but do it in a respectful way.”

O’Connor said she has a sign on her desk that reads: “Often wrong, never in doubt,” which she thinks is good rationale.

“If you believe something and put it out there, it is often self fulfilling,” she said. “I’ve never been a Gloria Steinem fan or into bra-burning, that’s not my style — but it does concern me that some women don’t want to raise their hands or are afraid to.”

LeadingRE rebrand announcement

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New LeadingRE branding

O’Connor spoke on behalf of LeadingRE, which recently unveiled a major rebranding in Amsterdam to an audience of brokers of independent real estate companies from over 30 countries around the world.

The rebrand, created in conjunction with agency 1000watt, reflects LeadingRE’s status as a “signifier of quality,” said the company. LeadingRE’s membership is comprised of over 550 independent real estate firms from 60 countries.

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