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Words of Wisdom from WomanUP 2017

Last week I had the privilege of speaking at the inaugural WomanUP event, hosted by the California Association of REALTORS. It was a full day of non-stop truth bombs, killer advice, and blatant motivation. Attended by over 300 women (and a handful of brave and amazing men), this event spoke directly to the Real Estate with a loud and clear message: we need more female leadership.

Here are some of the messages and takeaways that stood out to me:

In her opening remarks, Leslie Appleton Young (who is one of the wisest and most amazing leaders in her own right,) started out by saying, "I've been going to man-up conferences for 30 years. It's time we make the tent bigger. It's tone deaf when the stage and the voices we hear don't reflect the audience." I so agree with this - and it's not just true of women. We need to do a far better job in the Real Estate industry of making sure the panels and conferences we put on reflect the diversity of age, gender, and ethnicity of the industry's members.

Leslie also reflected on how women are often made to feel that they need to, "hold back a little. Don't tick anyone off. Be nice. Make sure people like you." Because of this, we often find ourselves waiting for permission. Permission to lead, to speak out, to share our ideas, etc. In fact, many of us often find ourselves in a position where we are thinking, "what? I can actually do that? I can speak out?" YES. You can. And you should. Stop waiting.

The reality is that we have an industry full of successful women, but not an industry full of woman leaders and executives. We have a long way to go - and that means stepping up, mentoring, and helping others as we go.

Another one of my mentors (and favourite people) is Vanessa Bergmark. In sharing her thoughts on starting a brokerage or taking a chance, she said, "If you are going to be a leader, you have to show up for all of it - the people, but also the parts you don't want to do." She also had thoughts on our responsibility to advocate for other women. "You can advocate for women by hiring them," she said. "If they aren't showing up, go find them."

I had never met Gretchen Pearson before this event, but her personality is as big as she is tall. She stared us down with a challenge: "Stop playing small. It's what we are trained to do. But we have an obligation to go big. We are capable. Whatever you are going to do, go large."

A common theme of the event was helping others around you become leaders as well, by encouraging them to seek truth in failure, or to seek mentorship and coaching. Colleen Badagliacco admonished us, as leaders, to "lean hard on a problem, but not on a person." And Elizabeth Mendenhall reminded us that, "We have to help each other help each other."

Negotiation is often a weak point for women, especially when we are negotiating for ourselves and our ideas. I loved the thoughts that Sarah Kosasky shared on this topic, saying "It's ok to be stubborn about some things. What I am most stubborn about are my values." She also recounted a time when she went to bat for herself, stating "It's far easier to be really confident when you aren't emotionally attached to the outcome." But my favourite piece of advice that she shared on negotiation was: "If you are going to ask, you have to be ready for the difficult conversations that will follow."

Eileen Rivera is a powerhouse coach who isn't afraid to say it like it is. She asked, "does your calendar match your goals? Don't say 'I want to accomplish this and this' when none of that is in your schedule." She also drove home the point that there are three things a successful leader needs to learn to manage: time, emotions and money. (See, I warned you about truth bombs.) I thought this was particularly important, and it struck me that we spend a lot of time asking questions about how to create culture, but we don't ask enough questions about how to make money, pay taxes, etc. We need to get real with our questions.

The last comment I want to share is a thought from Barbara Betts, who said, "The value and power is in the group of people you surround yourself with. Surround yourself with a tribe of good people, and often you won't know who your coaches will be until you look back after it's over." So much truth to that. The people you surround yourself with often end up being your biggest influencers. Choose them well.

As someone who attends heaps of Real Estate conferences each year, this one was up there with some of the best. We need more real talk and tough love. We need to hear that we can and should do better as leaders and mentors. But we also need to hear that we can get back up after a stumble and keep going. We are all in this together.

My closing thought on this event: If we can find over 40 amazing, wise, bright, caring, smart, interesting, and dynamic women to share their ideas at an event like this ... there are no excuses for Real Estate events to continue to be an endless parade of all male speakers and panels. No excuse.

A huge thank you to Sara Sutachan, Leslie Appleton Young, and all of the amazing folks at CAR for putting on a stellar event. I cannot wait to see how you top it next year!

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