Traditionally, all aspects connected to maintaining and nurturing a home was a woman’s domain. It was only a matter of time that women started expanding this domain to the actual search of a property and eventually also partook in the decision making of buying a property.
It was a natural choice for me to make real estate my profession and especially International properties, as that was my area of fascination, ever since I sold my father’s house in London.
In 2007, when I entered the real estate arena, women were a rarity, almost as rare as an entire afternoon discussing the works of Marcel Proust with an intellectual other.
I was an oddity alright. But my dedicated focus on high end luxury homes and International properties also did not seem to help. Worse still was the fact that I had the financials of the product down to a tee, and I was a strong, confident personality. The women hated me and the men got intimidated. From listening to comments such as “maybe she needs the money” to “what does a woman know about advising on property “, I’ve heard it all.
One incident I will never forget is this. In the early days of heading International Project Marketing (IPM) and Prime Sales (High end luxury sales) in a renowned IPC, I went to meet the MD of a famous export firm, who clearly wasn’t expecting the advise on his London property acquisition to come from a woman. I handed over my card, and he read it and looked back at me extremely perplexed. When I started talking about his London acquisition, he said “Shouldn’t we wait for your boss to come, before we start the discussion?” I looked back at him and said, “There is no boss. I am the boss. You will have to talk to me!” The look on his face was priceless. However, in the end, he called and insisted on my MD (a male) handling the acquisition.
Over the years, such incidents have fortunately become extremely rare. The industry has now evolved to include several senior women players. I have often found my clients deeply respecting my perspective on their choices of homes. Women real estate professionals bring the element of care in a real estate transaction which changes the otherwise non-personal, aggressive sales approach by our many male counterparts.
Few tips I would like to share with all my female colleagues:
- Whenever you hear the words “oh, so you are a broker,” please don’t cringe and don’t waste time justifying that you are a serious real estate professional. Instead be proud and embrace your profession and give it back by saying “Of course I’m a broker and the best one there is! “
- Stay safe and watch your backs while going on site visits. Keep a mace spray handy (just in case)
- Get your clients to respect your personal space, do not give in to the temptation of taking calls during late hours, after all even Rome wasn’t built in a day!
- Your biggest defense against any bias is knowledge and professionalism. Be knowledgeable at all times or be honest and admit that you will need more time to analyse and revert
- Glass ceilings are in every profession, be prepared to use a huge stone to break them and protect yourself from the glass shards (negative comments/ judgements, etc.) that are bound to fall on you
- Go where you are celebrated and always believe in your abilities
I chatted with a few of my female colleagues over the past month bringing up the topic. Confident that every Indian woman broker would connect well, here’s sharing with you their thoughts and experiences:
Leena Sehgal, Senior Manager, Residential Services
“The woman in me wishes that she could continue to sell dreams all her life. Literally! I am a dreamer and every new visit of a house adds one brick to my dream - the dream of helping people find their perfect homes…the dream of seeing people smile with the satisfaction and the dream of helping people dream! Who says, life cannot be a fairy tale! Well, I live it, every day. As a broker!”
Saritha Thomas, Assistant General Manager, Office Services
“Who do you think has it all? I am a broker. I am a mother…a wife…a sister…a daughter. And a human. Phew! There are many roles one essays during their daily life. I have been working in the RE industry for over 9 years now. Joined as a single carefree girl who absolutely loved the money and freedom earned to now being a mother of a cheeky fellow, engulfed by thoughts on how I can excel in her role as a mother and broker. Life is tough. But it can be handled like all other tough situations in life. The one big thing that wrecks our peace and mind as working mothers is the GUILT. We let it take the better of us. People around you add to that raging fire with constant nagging. That tells me who I really want to be – empathetic. It’s the pursuit of ‘having it all ‘that is the beginning of all disappointments. I have come to terms with the fact that you cannot achieve it 24/7. So make the best of what you have. And the best will come your way. Time well spent with folks and kids is far better than those hollow long hours without a happy moment. So ditch that guilt and go climb that corporate ladder; if that’s what u want!”
About the author
Mona Jalota works at Colliers International India as Senior Associate Director – NRI & International / Residential Services. She is well versed with various aspects of Real Estate in international and domestic markets and has worked for 8 years in the global markets for inbound and outbound sales. She has an elaborate performance track record and has launched in India products of developers from various locations such as London, New York, Malaysia , Kenya , Muscat etc.