It’s long been a personal theory of mine that all women leaders who find success have a responsibility — no, a moral obligation — to blaze their path so bright it illuminates a trajectory for others to follow.
If one of us figures out how to navigate the serpentine road to professional prosperity, it seems only right she leaves some knowledge-candles behind, like a secret map for career development we can all use. With beacons carefully placed, we’ll head in her enlightened direction because it’s been proven to hold promise. And though the journey before us will be filled with twists and turns, we’ll know there’s a way. She’s done it. So can we.
Even if it’s raining in Las Vegas, which it was.
I’m backtracking back in time because that whole concept of glow-in-the-dark mile markers for women leaders came into sharp focus last week during the “Women Who Lead: Reinventing Leadership in the 21st Century” session at the 2019 Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Sales Convention. It was a gray and drizzly Monday but no matter the weather, spirits in the conference room at Caesar’s Palace radiated pure sunshine.
The lively session was moderated by HSF Affiliates Vice President of Diversity, Inclusion and Multicultural Strategies Teresa Palacios Smith, and featured four powerhouse panelists:
- Tiffany Curry – Top agent at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Anderson Properties.
- DeAnn Golden – President of the Atlanta REALTORS® Association and Senior Vice President and Managing Broker at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Georgia Properties.
- Desiree Patno – President/CEO of Women in the Housing and Real Estate Ecosystem.
- Gretchen Pearson – President/Owner at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Drysdale Properties.
Questions were sharp, answers were succinct and every woman on the stage earned her right to be there. “These panelists were specifically chosen because of their talent and because of what they bring to this table,” Palacios Smith noted. “[They prove that] as you come up the ladder, it’s so important to bring others with you.”
Pearson, for her part, gave the no-nonsense story of her success. She started in the real estate business at the age of 21, and slowly but surely climbed her way to the top. She explained that 68% of REALTORS® in California are women and less than 11% are in leadership roles — except, of course, for her.
The Northern California resident currently runs the largest woman-owned brokerage in the state of California, Drysdale Properties, based in Danville. “You’re fighting for a seat,” Pearson said with characteristic confidence. “I’m gonna take a big, old chair.”
Like Pearson, Golden holds a prominent leadership role at Georgia Properties, and she’s carved a unique path in the Atlanta market all her own, leading the Atlanta REALTORS® Association as its current president. Alluding to a quote by Condoleezza Rice, (66th United States Secretary of State) Golden said: “If you’re waiting for someone to talk like you or who acts like you to do what you want to do, you may just be waiting … don’t wait, just believe in yourself and go for it … you can either break down or break through.”
(Though she didn’t mention it, Golden’s advice has garnered national acclaim. She is a Certified Mentor for Brian Buffini’s 100 Days to Greatness and Peak Producers, and was awarded a “Top Mentor in the Nation” by Buffini & Company.)
With similar inspiration, Curry delivered good vibes and soundbites for days. “The biggest thing is identifying and supporting,” she said. “Women can be our biggest hurdle … when we see each other, especially in corporate settings, we feel like there can only be one.”
Curry explained that the prevailing attitude of “I don’t want you to take my place, so I’m going to take you down” is counterproductive to the growth of women leaders in the workplace. Instead, she urged us to practice compassion, collaboration and support — for all genders, for everyone. Genuinely caring about the success of others isn’t just good business; it’s good human nature.
“If I bring you along and open the door, we can bring more people in,” Curry explained. She also highlighted the importance of continuous improvement for ourselves, a mindset that allows us to better serve others. “I focus on educating myself, differentiating myself and investing in myself,” she said.
This concept of continual evolution was further developed by Patno, who spoke about the importance of legislation and government representation to create greater equality for women in real estate — or any industry. Her legal-minded words spring from three decades of experience in the real estate industry; Patno founded and now runs the only third-party industry specific certifier of Women-Owned Businesses (WOBs) and Minority-Owned Businesses (MWOBs) in the housing and real estate ecosystem.
Pearson also urged the crowd to stay inquisitive and hungry for change. She said: “It’s not even the answers that we’re looking for, it’s what are the questions?”
As her wise words dropped with profound weight inside the room, everyone — the women, the sprinkling of brave men, even the videographer leaning against the back wall — nodded in agreement. Then Pearson added four words that summed up the reason we were all there, the reason we would continue to show up, to support, to encourage: “The world needs us.”