Leading in Luxury Roundtable: 5 powerful women talk leadership, mentorship and making a difference


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L-R: Shelley Johnson, CEO at The Tomlinson Family of Companies which includes Tomlinson Sotheby’s International Realty, Glacier Sotheby’s International Realty, and Big Sky Sotheby’s International Realty; Margaret Juvelier, Founder and CEO, Puerto Rico Sotheby’s International Realty; Mayi de la Vega, Founder and CEO at ONE Sotheby’s International Realty; Jessica Averbuch, CEO at Zeitlin Sotheby’s Internațional Realty; Amanda Howard, Founder and CEO at Amanda Howard Sotheby’s International Realty.

Women rule the world of real estate. According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), they represent the majority of all agents and brokers nationwide. But there are still notable discrepancies at the leadership level.

To talk about how to achieve true equity in the industry, we convened a roundtable of some of luxury real estate’s most powerful players. They discussed their personal journeys to leadership, the challenges women face, and the role everyone can play in moving the needle.

Puerto Rico Sotheby’s International Realty

When you look at the numbers, women are owning real estate. Are there any challenges that female agents continue to face?

Jessica Averbuch: It’s true, women in real estate are fortunate to be in an industry that continues to be female-dominated. However, there are myriad reasons why inequality persists at the leadership level, as it does in other industries.

Margaret Juvelier: Most definitely there are numerous challenges. We deal with successful individuals who are leaders in their industry, so having trust and confidence in your own abilities is essential.

Amanda Howard: Another challenge is that as women, we often have a tendency to trivialize the acts that lead to success in our careers. We seem to be concerned about being branded as arrogant or pompous if we brag about our achievements.

Zeitlin Sotheby’s International Realty

How can women in real estate continue to rise above challenges, and not be afraid to set themselves apart?

JA: I think the most impactful way is for women to have mentors and the support of their colleagues and partners—male and female—to break down barriers.

Mayi de la Vega: I second that. The work and family balance is another challenge. With success comes sacrifice, and to advance in real estate—or any career—there are tradeoffs to be made with your personal life. Having a strong support network is paramount.

AH: Mentorship has also been critical in my career. Not a week goes by where I don’t speak to at least two people within my network that continue to support me, and I them.

Tomlinson Sotheby’s International Realty

Can you share more about how mentorship opportunities have supported you?

SJ: More than 25 years ago, I had my first career job out of college. I’d just made a $70,000 mistake, and went into my boss’ office expecting to be fired. Instead she marshaled resources in (an ultimately successful) attempt to reverse it. She said that if $70,000 was the cost of my professional education, she was willing to pay it. I strive to be that emotionally and financially generous as I lead every day.

MJ: I also had a mentor who gave me life-changing advice. I was at a crossroads in my career and contemplating starting a totally different business. I consulted my manager at Sotheby’s International Realty, where I had been for over 25 years. Her words were inspirational. She said, “Why would you want to reinvent the wheel? Do what you do best and what you know.” Thus began the process of opening Puerto Rico Sotheby’s International Realty. It was the beginning of my journey and the best decision I ever made. Her guidance, support, and confidence in my ability was the foundation for me to succeed.

Amanda Howard Sotheby’s International Realty

Those are incredible stories. It sounds like having a network of support makes a difference no matter where you are in your career.

AH: Absolutely. I make sure I surround myself with peers who encourage female leaders. We need to cheer each other on. It’s inspiring to young women when they see the normalization of female collaboration and lifting each other up.

MV: When I transitioned from a small boutique firm to being part of a global brand, the network helped me position myself as an industry leader in the luxury space. The way I was received by other Sotheby’s International Realty affiliates throughout the world was so wonderful and heartwarming. They have been an incredible support network since day one, and those relationships have flourished over the years.

AH: My ideals of success have changed throughout my career, and now I do think a lot about personal legacy. At first I wanted to be a strong example for my daughters and their friends who I know were watching me. Now I want to coach all my team members to hit their own levels of success in business and in life.

ONE Sotheby’s International Realty

What would your advice be to others in the luxury real estate space—whether they’re established veterans or emerging visionaries?

MV: Everything in real estate is about emotional intelligence (E.Q.)—it’s a vital component you need to succeed in our industry, and it’s an area where women shine. Real estate at times can be a high-tension and volatile business. Being able to communicate with clients and colleagues effectively, manage relationships and stressful energy in a positive manner, and successfully understand and collaborate with those around you is invaluable.

JA: In today’s world, our ability to be empathetic leaders is paramount, and studies have shown that women have an innate advantage when it comes to E.Q. However, it must be nurtured through the continuous growth that comes from watching and learning, having mentors, and building experience.

SJ: That’s right. We have a responsibility as mentors, but all women interested in rising can help by being bold, raising their hands, and making their voices heard—and then by paying their successes forward for generations to come.

Resources to support women in real estate:

What Moves Her
NAWRB
Women’s Council of Realtors
Women’s Economic Development Council
Your local Chamber of Commerce
Mastermind groups
Peers within your affiliate network

The next generation of women leaders is already here, changing the game. Let’s celebrate and champion them as they grow, innovate, and reinvigorate the real estate industry.

Want to learn more about the history of women in our industry? See The Historic Rise of Women in Real Estate on the RESIDE Blog, in celebration of Women’s History Month.





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