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How women in real estate can provide collaborative leadership

How women in real estate can provide collaborative leadership

Broker-owner Karen Shanahan Garrett writes that women in real estate have a role to play in filling the leadership and communication vacuum that currently exists in the industry. Read the full Inman Article here.


March 15, 2024

I didn’t start my career in real estate. I spent a number of years working at a large management consulting firm, specializing in marketing and sales strategies for pharmaceutical companies before making the transition to real estate sales. At the time, my mother, who was a very successful real estate broker, was launching her own brokerage, and I was able to support her in this exciting new business. We worked really well together, and each of us were able to play to our strengths. Over the years, we have been recognized because, as women broker-owners, we are in a unique position to lead our companies and our industry with women in mind. Here are a few ways we are doing that.

Better together

The biggest impact my mom had on the business and, quite frankly, my real estate career, was her unwavering belief in collaboration over competition. She created a unique culture for the time, one that was supportive, sharing and caring. Better together, as we say. Because of that guiding philosophy, all of our agents have the benefit of the collective, shared knowledge of the entire company. I love the African proverb that says, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” We definitely embody that. That’s the only way I have ever done this job, and I can’t imagine doing it any other way. No one wants to do this very hard job alone. And for that reason, we have always been very intentional about the people we surround ourselves with. 


One of the guiding principles of the “better together” approach is that it’s OK not to know all the answers. We have created a community where we can figure it out together. I personally love this problem-solving part of the job. My sense is that women who balance work and families get extra practice at problem-solving. Part of my problem-solving skill set is being able to see people’s strengths and weaknesses and move them in directions that fit their skills and needs. 


Creating opportunities for development

Real estate is an industry dominated by women — nearly 70 percent of Realtors are women — yet there are not many female leaders. I see a lot of opportunity there for women to grow into leadership positions. 

And that’s what I love about the real estate industry: There are so many avenues for development. Agents can take on staff roles, move into management, work at corporate or move into an ancillary service like mortgage. 

In real estate, I believe that we have a vacuum of leadership, especially at the local level. As many companies grew larger by adding agents over the past several years, this growth was not met with sufficient management and business support. 

We feel strongly that agents need to be closely connected to a manager or mentor to support their growth and development. That is sorely lacking in our market today. When I’m having conversations with potential recruits, I always ask them, “Who do you go to for business advice, or who is helping you grow your business?” Very often, the answer is no one. 

So that’s become a big selling point because one of the things that makes our company different is that our leadership team, including me, is in the office and available every day. We call it “local leadership,” meaning that agents know that they can come and sit in my office, text us or call us and get the support, advice and encouragement they need, when they need it. 

This also means that my job specifically requires me to be involved in our communities and build our network of real estate professionals so that we know what is happening in our markets, what trends are emerging and how we can best prepare our clients.

Creating leadership opportunities for women

Beyond the supportive environment of our office, it’s important to support women’s groups as well as allies of women. We need to help each other out so we can prime the next generation of leadership and get them to step up. The more support women see and feel, the more likely they will be to step up. 

Beyond my mom and me, for example, we have an incredible support staff at our company, made up of really experienced, dedicated and creative women. This group not only supports our agents and clients, but they represent our company and help lead us forward every day. 

The other side of that is that women in real estate need to actively sek out support and mentorship, whether it’s in your own company or outside of it. If there isn’t a specific group, find female brokers, managers and owners in your area, and invite them to coffee. See how they think.

If you connect, stay in touch. It’s entirely possible to have a friendly networking relationship that doesn’t cross into recruiting territory. 

We need to realize how important we are

In real estate, we have a really important role in helping people find a home. Where a person lives determines so much in their lives, including education, occupation, health and, of course, wealth. We need to always remember this and act accordingly to deliver service that is on par with the level of importance this transaction represents for people. 

Then begin delivering this service by listening — and I mean really listening — to our clients. Like in so many other areas of life, we can solve a lot of problems if we just listen. 


Karen Shanahan Garrett is broker-owner at Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate The Shanahan Group. Follow her on LinkedIn and Instagram.

Read the full Inman Article here.

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