“Women are stepping into their own power and confidence, and it’s a beautiful thing,” said WomanUP! co-founder Sara Sutachan, speaking a week after the organization’s 2022 conference.

In fact, women in real estate are having a real moment right now. It’s an about-damn-time moment. They’re speaking up, raising hands and taking action. They’re not talking about glass ceilings or not enough seats at the table anymore; they’re creating new tables. 

WomanUP! co-founder Debra Trappen called it a V2 moment, as in version 2. 0.

What does that look like? Sutachan said she’s seeing more and more women speaking out for others and inviting one another to the table.

That couldn’t be more evident than at this year’s conference. WomanUP! is a California Association of Realtors initiative, founded in 2017. 

Its mission:

“We have a three-part mission to identify, develop, and connect women in this industry. We identify the tools and strategies you need to make bold moves in real estate. We provide you with resources and events to develop your skills as a leader. We create opportunities to connect with other amazing leaders in the national brokerage community.”

In the beginning, Sutachan said, women were surprised when asked to share their stories. This is still happening, which is why WomanUP! keeps doing its thing, Sutachan pointed out. But now they’re also stepping up, speaking out and leaning on their peers. 

The first majority female National Association of Realtors leadership team (since being founded in 1908, do the math), in an industry where women make up 65 percent of Realtors, took the WomanUP! stage to discuss their journeys to leadership, those who lifted them up along the way, and how they’re working together. 

A week after the event, when I spoke with Sutachan, I asked her which speakers stood out in her mind. She said that women who show that they are thriving on the other end of adversity were the ones that she remembered most. 

Everyone faces adversity, she said. It’s about how you react, how you grow. What you do after.

The following were a few highlights for her:

  • Author, motivational speaker, Global Luxury Real Estate Advisor at Engel & Völkers Chicago Bertina Power, who spoke about finding her power in the things her younger self had been ridiculed for — her voice and her height. “No one is YOU, and that is your POWER … Start being honest with yourself about your strengths and weaknesses. With that information, then you know where to get help in the process and recognize the power of resources!”
  • Top-producing real estate adviser with Engel & Völkers Amy Powell shared her story of 9.5 years of sobriety after two DUIs, a four-year divorce battle, having her driver’s license revoked for five years, plus probation, community service, ankle bracelet, 10 days in jail and thousands of dollars in fines. Broke, depressed and scared, she borrowed money to hire a business coach, scrubbed toilets, cleaned homes to pay for Ubers, and had friends drop her off in neighborhoods where she’d door-knock until she made 23 contacts. Today, in addition to being an inspiring speaker and top producer, she also has a portfolio of 10 long- and short-term rentals, multiple businesses, and she loves her life.
  • Founding partner of the Aspire Group at Engel & Völkers Melbourne Beachside in Brevard County, motivational speaker and real estate adviser Martha Melendez told the WomanUP! audience about changing the narrative in her head from victim to victor, victor to survivor and then survivor to thriver after leaving an abusive relationship and starting over with basically nothing. 

These are just a few of the stories women told from the WomanUP! stage. 

There’s a “power of sisterhood” that hasn’t happened at this level before, Sutachan said. 

Women aren’t working in silos within their markets; they’re finding ways to connect, collaborate and raise a fellow sister up — nationwide — and WomanUP!’s goal is to create those connections through both the onstage conversations and the Circle Up sessions, where attendees can break up into talking circles to discuss their own triumphs and challenges. 

“For me, what’s so exciting now is that so many women in real estate are simply breaking free from the status quo — they’re not waiting to fit in, get promoted, or for their turn in line — they are building and doing what is meaningful and works for them on their terms,” Lisa Fettner, marketing and PR consultant said. 

“It’s not about breaking the glass ceiling anymore. It’s about taking ownership, making your own rules, and putting in a giant skylight so you can go as high as you want on your own terms with energy and passion! What is so great about WomanUP! (and similar groups) is that it provides WIRE with the support and resources to make the leap.”

In this editor’s experience, WomanUP! is a place where women are encouraged to be honest about their experiences, speak their truths, shed tears for one another’s pain — without competition, fear of retribution and judgement. That’s rare in this world. 

What might the future hold? In version 3, I’d like to see the data actually shift, Sutachan said. And men stepping up and speaking out, advocating for and sponsoring women — and then to watch that grow 

Maybe one day, the industry can come together to have real conversations about the lack of true diversity and how to give everyone a seat at the table. Ideally, it won’t take another 115 years. 

Email Dani Vanderboegh

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