While female leadership within the real estate space is becoming more commonplace, the playing field is still lopsided, with executive roles generally held by men. Today’s female leaders in real estate say the landscape is shifting, and trailblazers are helping to support individual growth and advancement within their brokerage regardless of gender.
Here, female executives from Coldwell Banker provide insights about related trends and what they’re doing to help nurture leadership ambitions within their brokerages.
Previously working at Engel & Völkers in Manhattan and licensed since 2007, Donnelly recently joined Coldwell Banker as part of a strategic expansion with a focus on increasing service, training and leadership. She is the seventh woman on the company’s leadership team. Her most recent achievement is obtaining a true work-life balance in the thriving market of Greenville, S.C., she says.
Ponikvar recently made the move to Coldwell Banker after being the No. 1 Keller Williams Chervenic Realty team leader in Northeast Ohio. With 28 years of real estate experience, Ponikvar wakes up every morning grateful to be in the industry and a part of people’s goals and dreams.
Brennan has worked in real estate for the past 31 years. Her brokerage was founded and expanded by three generations of women, starting with her mother. Brennan is proud they’ve maintained a female-owned and -operated company that “steps out in faith and takes on new challenges,” while consistently growing.
What is your take on leadership in the real estate space?
Alyson Donnelly: In my real estate career, I’ve been fortunate to observe and learn from some incredible mentors, gender aside. So many trailblazing men have set important, timeless standards and practices in real estate. That said, I believe women can especially provide the full spectrum of brokerage leadership in this industry. We are able to negotiate and make decisions with conviction and sound judgement, but also to reach and lead the agent population with compassion and a nurturing spirit.
Carla Ponikvar: Becoming a leader in a field where most leadership roles are dominated by men can be challenging. Actually, every boss I have ever had in this business were men. I would say that many of my accomplishments have been encouraged and supported by men I have worked for and I love and respect all of them. Although our corporate leadership has all men at the helm who I have tremendous respect for, I must say, I am enjoying the change at the regional leadership level working for Felicia Hengle in our Ohio region.
Kelli Brennan: Who understands what women need day-to-day in the workplace more than another woman who has dealt with it herself? I know the kind of encouragement and support my female agents need. I know how it feels on those days, when you have so many stresses and responsibilities to take care of, that you can’t speak to another client. Whether you’re male or female, strong support along with understanding and compassion are essential in leadership.
What keeps you excited in this business and what do you hope to achieve?
AD: I am motivated most by the agents I serve. I realized I truly gained fulfillment from helping agents to become better at what they do by guiding them to learn tools and master concepts to serve their clients and increase their income. That will continue to motivate me through my career, whether I am recruiting talent, triaging a transaction or helping to develop and implement systems to hone agents’ skills.
CP: I am motivated by watching people achieve! When they achieve, I achieve, and we are all climbing this mountain together. I have always said that when you help and care for others, the success and money will come, and I have lived my entire life this way. It is my passion!
KB: I’ve always loved challenging women to step out of their comfort zone and expand their potential. Because of preconditioning, women often get stuck in an “acceptable” role of what is expected of them instead of pushing past those barriers to reach their full potential. They need a little push—some extra support—and there’s no holding them back. I want to be an example of what women can accomplish. I’ve had my share of challenges, and surviving those and succeeding past expectations is my dopamine. If obstacles are placed in my way, I’m usually the one to bulldoze them down.
Thinking back to your own challenges, what advice can you give to those hoping to grow into a leadership role?
AD: Commit yourself to be an expert on the hard and soft skills of real estate as you gain experience as an agent. Learn as much as you can about the industry through the details of your own transactions and those of your colleagues. Observe changes in the industry via trade media, local roundtables and conferences. There is always something to learn to apply in future transactions.
CP: Remember, it is all about the people you help to achieve their goals. They will remember what you did to help them, and they will absolutely remember how you made them feel. Be passionate about others, their goals and your place in their life journey.
KB: My one mistake was not finding a mentor sooner. No matter how good you are at your profession, there’s always something you can learn from those who inspire you.
Do you know someone who is making strides toward the advancement of women leadership in the residential real estate industry? Contact firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more about our Women in Real Estate series.
Liz Dominguez is RISMedia’s associate content editor. Email her your real estate news ideas at email@example.com.