- Rather than lamenting their fate, these women kept working.
How do you react when you experience a significant business challenge, a major illness or the loss of a loved one?
Do you let it stop you, or do you rise from the ashes and keep going?
As part of the California Association of Realtors (C.A.R.) Women’s Initiative, I interviewed a cross-section of 25 women brokers. The challenges they shared included blatant discrimination, bankruptcy, betrayal by partners, major illnesses and the death of loved ones.
What struck me most about how these women handled these life challenges was their attitude: Rather than lamenting their fate or whining about the unfairness of it all, they kept working, found time to give back to others and in the process, not only survived, but thrived.
You ‘ought to be home making cookies’
I first met Barbara Lynch several months ago. She was moving into a new office space to accommodate today’s mobile agent culture and to better serve her company’s clientele.
Her goal for 2017 has been to double her agent count from 200 to 400 agents.
By the way, Lynch is 82.
She had five children when she first started in the business, and waited until the youngest was in kindergarten to obtain her Colorado sales license in 1972.
She was greeted with resentment and snide remarks telling her that, she “ought to be home making cookies.”
Fortunately, her broker encouraged her to ignore these comments and to do well. As Lynch explained, “I had five kids to put through college.”
She and her husband eventually went on to open their own company, but Lynch had to run the brokerage alone when her husband became seriously ill.
Her response to the question, “What keeps you up at night?” sums up her approach:
“Nothing keeps me up at night,” she said. “There are benefits of age: I understand that you don’t sweat the small stuff … and it’s all small stuff.
“After Frank had his aneurysm, survived lung cancer, then had prostate cancer and now he’s cancer free — that’s what I think about at night, but I don’t worry about it.”
Lynch’s advice to her younger colleagues: “Study, learn and persist. If you lose a transaction, go out and look for another one — don’t wallow in your failure; instead, glory in your success!”
‘You need your husband’s or your father’s signature’
When Eva Garcia started her real estate career, she was the youngest member of the Sacramento Board. The old-timers told her to get another job because she would “never succeed in this business.”
Fifty-four years later, Garcia’s business and volunteer work have left an indelible mark on both the real estate industry and her community.
Most people don’t realize that until the 1970s, women were unable to obtain a credit card or a mortgage without their husband’s or their father’s signature on the application. In 1978, Garcia, along with other members of the National Association of Business Owners, sponsored a bill (HR 2020) that allowed women to obtain credit on their own.
Garcia explained: “In the late 1970s, I sold a house to a TV anchorwoman. The lender refused to give her a loan without a man’s signature. I told them, ‘She’s earning more than any of you,’ and they also heard from my attorney. My client got her loan.”
Garcia has a long list of firsts: She was the first Latina broker in Sacramento, the first Mexican-American member of the Sacramento City Unified School District board, and founder of La Familia, an organization that provides job, health and education assistance to low income at-risk youth and families in Sacramento County.
She has also been an outspoken advocate of women who start their own businesses.
Garcia was invited by the International Association of Realtors to help other countries set up better systems for their real estate agents. She explained what happened when she went to Colombia:
“Many of the most successful salespeople were women, but they all worked for men. I told them that they should start their own business. The people who were sponsoring me said, ‘We don’t want you to tell them that.’
“At the end of my session, I thanked my hosts and told the audience, ‘Men shouldn’t be afraid of women in business. After all, we could never be as successful as they are — we don’t have a wife!'”
That is a classic illustration of how she has coupled her advocacy with humor.
‘Continue to move forward, stay involved — that’s the medicine’
Evelyn “Mom” Arnold is one of the most beloved women in C.A.R. due to her tireless service to her community and to her Realtor family.
At age 84, she has faced it all — discrimination, death and business setbacks — leading with grace and dignity all the while.
Arnold described how she first entered the real estate business 52 years ago:
“At the beginning of my career, in 1965, there was blatant discrimination. I was working as a cosmetologist at the time. My husband and I purchased investment property and worked with a white broker.
“When I got my license, I went to her to see if she would hire me. She thought I might hurt the production of her company; people of color were not accepted.
“The only thing that I recall is that I didn’t accept it as an obstacle. I didn’t think about it. It happened, but I didn’t let it discourage me. The broker referred me to a Realtor of color. Later, I opened my own office.”
Brokers who work with minority communities often face a wide variety of issues that seldom exist outside these communities, especially in terms of obtaining financing. Appraisals consistently come in low, clients often have lower credit scores and banks often engage in redlining — refusing to make loans based upon a property being located in a predominantly minority area.
Arnold explains her approach to these issues: “You have to be prepared to deal with obstacles, to provide ways to solve the problem, and then find creative ways to get the buyers into the property.”
Arnold has these words of wisdom for those times when you may be coping with life’s greatest challenges: “Since 2004, I have lost my husband, my daughter and my son. Continue to move forward, stay involved — that’s the medicine.”
The sudden death of her son from a heart attack was a major blow to her and to her company’s production. Her son had become President of C.A.R. and died only a few months after he left office. Arnold has been fighting to hold the company together as she grooms her grandson to take over.
She credits her church and her Realtor family for helping her to weather the storm:
“I’ve been given a gift by my church and my Realtor family who have been there to support me. My ‘adopted daughters and sons’ encouraged me not to hide, but to keep going on.
“There are so few minority women in real estate, especially at the association level. I encourage my Realtor daughters to get involved and to be an example for others — it’s important to always be mindful of that. Give thanks for your blessings and share them with others.”
Arnold, Garcia and Lynch epitomize the best parts of our industry. Their lives remind us that we’re here to serve others, to approach challenges with grace and humor, and to keep working at being part of the solution rather than part of the problem.
Bernice Ross, CEO of RealEstateCoach.com, is a national speaker, author and trainer with over 1,000 published articles and two best-selling real estate books. Learn about her training programs at www.RealEstateCoach.com/