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The Female Frontier (Women in Real Estate)

Picture of Erica Neal

Erica Neal

Erica was born & raised in west Texas, graduating from Permian High School (the school from “Friday Night Lights”). She went on to earn her bachelor’s degree in Finance & Economics from UT Permian Basin. After college, she moved to the DFW area and began her career in finance by working for a large investment firm. She learned the basics of running a financial practice but also saw large holes in the company’s planning process from early on.



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Paving the way for Women in Real Estate

 Seventy years ago there was a social understanding of gender roles where men and women carried distinctly diverse loads to live their life and develop a family. In my personal opinion, there is something beautiful about that scenario in that there was an element of teaming up to accomplish a common goal. Different people with different skill sets performing different functions that complimented one another, each allowing the other to focus on what they do best. The question stands now, what do we as females do best? Like it or not, I believe most women are natural nurtures and run a home smoothly. But there is so much more to what is built into our DNA and the traditional female role than what we realize.

The strengths women typically posses are unique, powerful and impact others who are involved with them. Over the last 20 years we as women have realized this and the world is acknowledging us as well. Entrepreneurship and businesses ownership by women have increased 74% in the past 20 years. To put that growth into perspective, let’s look at a historical impact of women in the workforce for comparison. WWI initiated a shift in the workplace as men were sent to war leaving more jobs available and needing to be filled by women. Across the world, even in male dominated fields such as doctors, most countries saw an increase of 20-25% of women in their workforce. This shift disrupted how business had been done for centuries. Even since then women have continued to force their way out of the home and secrtaries’ desk and into dominant, leadership roles.

The last 20 years have initiated an impact THREE TIMES the size of the WW1 effect and we are not stopping now. Look around ladies! It is our time and the way is being paved for us by our sisters who have accepted the challenges and overcome adversity with strength and patience. Now, I would never say there are not hurdles and obstacles for female entrepreneurs to endure. In fact, I would never say there are not hurdles and obstacles for every entrepreneur to endure. If building a business were easy everyone would do it, but that is obviously not the case. Building a business is hard and we cannot expect to receive special treatment or skip important levels.

 If we want to maintain the momentum that has occurred over the last two decades, we must understand how to take advantage of this new frontier. In order to do so, let’s see how when you align your mentality with productivity, leverage your complimentary skillsets with others and continue to develop yourself into a leader, you can become a trailblazer for generations to come.

The best place to start is usually the beginning so we will do just that. Mindset. Regardless of your industry, occupation, business or gender, your mindset is your greatest strength and weakness. I cannot count the number of times I have been to a conference with experienced, powerful female real estate investors on stage, sharing their knowledge with the crowd and during the Q&A session the trademark question “how did you succeed in real estate and overcome the challenges of being a woman” gets asked. Sometimes that answer even gets asked twice, just in different ways. But there is one time in particular that continually stands out in my mind. The standard question gets asked and before anyone else can even bring the microphone up to their face, the most experienced lady of them all speaks up.

 With over twenty years of being a real estate investor, this woman had seen the past and present environments of female involvement within the industry. Her answer (and yes I am paraphrasing) was “Are you kidding me? This question gets asked at every single event I have been to and that is what the problem is. I did not succeed because I am a woman. Others did not fail because they are women. Your success or your failure will be due to your determination, willingness to learn and ability to be creative in problem solving. If you see the fact that you are a woman as an obstacle, then you are right and you are in your own way, creating your own hindrance. That is your own problem because ten years ago I would have been one of maybe two or three women in this room. Now I look around and see probably over thirty women here.

 Successful women! I do not see being female as an obstacle and it is your mindset that creates this hurdle in yourself.” The room applauded so loudly after her answer and I was floored. During the happy hour later, I sought her out and thanked her for the honest response. She did note she did not mean to lash out at that poor lady who had asked the question, but that she had seen so many wonderful things come from ladies getting involved she hated the thought of any woman denying herself that same opportunity. Can we just stop ladies? Stop doubting ourselves, stop worrying if we are good enough, stop caring if we are the only woman in the room. Just stop. Bring your mindset to one of having value, not doubt. There are studies that have shown women traditionally make less than men and we all know of the wage gap that exists in the corporate world. So what are we as women doing about it? The same studies show that 68% of women accept the initial salary that is offered to them while only 45% of men accept initial offers.

Over half them negotiate for more, which really means women are less like to realize and stand up for their own worth. I know there will always be those chauvinistic men who look down on women, but in my experience that is rare. We are the givers of life to every person on this planet. Women are traditionally better learners than men because we are better listeners. We spend so much time supporting others, we forget to support ourselves and even each other. If you are the only woman in the room and are able to establish a confidence about yourself, every man in that room will take notice and have no problem engaging in conversation. If there are other females who need that little boost, go help your sister out. I can personally attribute multiple lessons learned and confidence earned to other women reaching out their hand to bring me into their circle. Knowing your value doesn’t mean that you know everything. In fact, knowing your value means that you don’t know everything but are coachable and willing to learn. Just remember, you cannot expect special treatment when being taken under wing. With the informational resources available today, there is a plethora of material available for your own self- study. A responsible mindset is key. Take responsibility for your own industry knowledge and learn as fast as you can. Just because someone is willing to let you stand in their circle, does not mean you are granted an all access pass to their knowledge base. Every successful woman I have met has taken their own time to read, study, watch videos, take classes and do whatever they needed to in order to understand the industry in which they were focused on succeeding. They did not just follow people around and ask questions without attempting to learn the basics on their own.

 In business and real estate, time is money. That is why the coaching groups cost what they do. If anyone is taking time to educate or coach, they are taking time away from being able to conduct revenue producing activity on their own. Maintaining a mindset of respect for others and their time will leave a lasting impression on industry leaders. They can typically tell rather quickly who is willing to put in the effort and who is not. Which person do you think they will be more likely to partner with in the future? Respect others by doing what you can on your own and acknowledging any unpaid time they spend on pouring into you. Value, responsibility and respect. Get your mind right and you will be on the right track. As Henry Ford said, “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t – you’re right.”

Once you have your mentality in check, you can start to see the value add you bring to the table and acknowledge your own skillsets. Real estate investing is all about leverage. We leverage assets, OPM (other people’s money) and of course, each other. I have never, nor do I expect to ever see a one-person syndication. Even in single family investing, teams are required in order to grow and scale. At some point every investor will have to understand their own strengths and weaknesses so they can address accordingly. I will admit that I have done my own SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) and highly recommend others do the same. There are other tools our there like culture index, aptitude tests, etc. but we are all wired differently and will shine brightest in our own light.

 It is imperative to create strategic partnerships that allow each person to capitalize on what they’re best at, while outsourcing where they lack. I referred to this teaming model in the introduction when looking back at the gender roles in place seventy years ago. Men went to work to support the family while women tended the home and took care of the children. No women in my family, including myself, have ever been on the “stay at home mom” spectrum. I do not mean offense to those that do because after only a few sick days during the year and summer breaks with my own kids, I’ve realized the job requirements of “full time mom” are not easily satisfied. However, whether we work inside or outside the home, we as females tend to flourish in some specific areas that transfer well into the real estate investing world. If we can start with the most obvious example, women are excellent multi taskers.

 Numerous studies will support and every man I’ve ever spoken to has admitted that statement. There are always exercises and processes that can be implemented to help increase multi-tasking abilities but being naturally talented is a gift. Whether you’re new to real estate investing or a seasoned veteran, it is easy to see this industry requires the wearing of multiple hats, switching gears quickly and juggling an ongoing list of tasks. It is overwhelming for anyone, but we ladies can handle it. We also see better soft skills and communication from females. Previously mentioned was how women tend to learn better than men because we listen. This is a soft skill that is crucial in real estate. Listening allows us to learn the industry, but we also learn people. If you have not figured out already, there are posers in every business. Selecting the right business partners can make or break success.

 Listening isn’t just about benefitting yourself though. Truly listening to someone’s stories, concerns, problems and goals puts you in a position to understand them and provide value in their life. If you have ever had someone who has actively listened and understood your perspective, you know the lasting mark they left behind. Also being able to communicate clearly in response amplifies the impact. Every industry field and occupation requires good communication but real estate is a negotiation heavy, people business where communication isn’t just required but crucial. Investors are so much more likely to work with someone when they know their concerns and goals have been heard, considered and addressed. Females pose incredible strength in being able to listen to learn then communicate to build trust with brokers, lenders, and limited partners. And again, partnerships in real estate are what help grow and scale over time. This foundational piece of real estate success is another arrow in the female investors quiver. We are excellent networkers and build relationships naturally.

 Not to mention, we already know there are fewer females so when there is a strong, confident and well-spoke lady introducing herself, she is much more likely to be remembered than the 100s of other men that float through. If your mindset is strong and you utilize these soft skill strengths in a networking environment, be ready to watch your web grow. Initiating and developing relationships is one of the most difficult aspects of business but is by far the most important. Females are typically inclined to thrive on relationships, so why not turn that desire into a business? We have natural strengths that are difficult to learn. The men in real estate investing know this to be true as well and often seek out female partners with complimentary skillsets. In any team, diversity and varying backgrounds are key components of harboring creative ideas.

Different experiences and perceptions coming together breeds innovation, causing people to view a common topic in a whole new light. Women are a minority in the real estate world but hold the most opportunity to diversify any team’s creativity and thought processes. We need to stop trying to be more like men or make men be more like women. Embrace our differences, leverage the strengths of one another and capitalize on the beautiful contrast we naturally create.

Developing partnerships overtime is an incredible and profitable experience. Even though there are fewer women than men in the real estate investing scene, the investor ladies that are present make some waves! As previously mentioned, we’ve seen tremendous growth in female entrepreneurship and business ownership, so we need to continue this exponential curve. We can’t just stop there though. Let’s expand our reach into team leadership and the development of other investors.

 Once you’ve established your own self-development procedures, repay the favors granted to you by pouring into the next generation. Like I said, most women are nurtures by heart and want to help others. I can promise there is a massive need for help in developing more independent, female real estate investors and who better to guide them along than another woman blazing the trail? Let’s continue this path of empowerment by training to value ourselves and our strengths, create collaborative relationships and from there create a legacy to pass along to daughters and granddaughters to come.

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