Every year, we come together as a company to celebrate our female agents. Our Women of Oakwyn event is now in its 4th year running. Although this year we are unable to gather in person, we wanted to make sure that we emphasized this important part of our community.
We created WOO to elevate and support the women in our industry. Women have made a lot of progress in recent years, but the battle is far from over. The President’s Club and Medallion clubs are predominately male. Discrimination still happens. Stories of violence, sexual harassment, and threats made towards female agents are all too common. WOO exists to shine a light on these problems, to incite change, and to ensure that our voices are heard.
Female empowerment is essential to the growth of our industry. At Oakwyn, we aim to create an environment where diversity and collaboration are encouraged; where women can feel free to succeed without fear. We celebrate our predominately female-led management team. Our agent maternity rate, created by President and Co-founder Morgan Browne, helps women continue their careers while growing their families.
Women of Oakwyn are more than just agents. They are innovators, change-makers, mothers, leaders, fighters, and success stories.
This year, our WOO theme is: Think Big, Go Bigger. Inspired by Co-founder and C.O.O Arlene Chiang’s father, this theme reminds us to not be afraid to “Think Big”. Hard work, compassion, and cultivating an understanding of our limitless potential is at the core of Oakwyn’s values. To celebrate this theme, we gathered 4 of our top-performing female agents and asked them 4 big questions.
How important is female empowerment to the real estate industry?
I feel that women naturally bring a lot of amazing gifts to the table. Empathy, being able to relate to others, building community. I think that’s beneficial not only for business but it helps raise the bar for the industry as a whole. It’s amazing to see so many females feeling empowered in the industry and stepping up to take higher levels of achievement.
What does the theme “Thinking Big” mean to you? Can you give us an example of how you have lived that idea in your career?
When I first got into the business I had this quote by Michelangelo up on my wall and it said, “The greater danger lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short, but in setting our aim too low and achieving our mark.” That was something I really kept in mind as I started my career. Not going after what we know we can achieve, but seeing what is possible beyond our limits. When my clients are looking to buy or sell, it’s not about helping them through that transaction, it’s really about setting them up for the next phase of their lives.
How do you overcome challenges in your day-to-day?
Well, there’s a lot of challenges in this business and I think that’s the one thing that we can’t avoid. Early on I used to resist challenges and I always wanted perfection. But now, I really try to embrace challenges because in every challenge, and every defeat, there is a little hidden layer of opportunity. The more I embrace those challenges the more I find myself growing.
What inspires and motivates you in your career?
What I love most about this business is helping people through to the next phase of their life. Taking them from where they are now and helping them envision their future and get to that next level. That’s what got me into the business and what’s kept me excited about it. What inspires me is seeing the innovation within our industry. Seeing the new generation coming in, hanging the way we do business, but still keeping the same values of service and community.
What is the most challenging part of being in a leadership position?
I’ve been in the real estate business since 2003, so 17 years now. I think in this role there are a lot of rewards, but there are also a lot of challenges. For me, making sure that I am setting the right example for my team is really important. It means being self-aware and being the hardest working person in the office, the fiercest competitor, and the most innovative. Keeping your emotions in check is really important. We are all human and we feel things, but as a leader, you need to be a positive force for your team because they look up to you.
What excites you about being an Oakwynite?
I love that I am part of a group of such extraordinary professionals. Oakwyn is different than any company I’ve worked for in my career. Like I said, I’ve been in this business 17 years, realistically I was brought up in it thanks to my family, and I’ve worked for a number of organizations in Canada and abroad. But Oakwyn is very special. It really creates an energy of community support that I’ve never seen anywhere else. They are always there for anything that we need and very supportive. This company isn’t just lateral where you have a relationship with your manager, you have relationships with other colleagues as well, and that is really wonderful.
Who are some influential women that you look to for inspiration and knowledge?
I was always raised with the belief that I could do anything I wanted if I worked hard enough. Gender wasn’t something I saw as a barrier. One of my favourite female role models is Indra Nooyi, who was a former CEO of Pepsi, and she really reshaped the business. She doubled their profits. She was an immigrant from India, she went to school in India, and became a powerful woman in the USA. Coming from a minority background that really inspired me. She was also a mother of two and as a mother myself, that gives me motivation and helps me see that women can have it all.
What got you into this industry and what keeps you in it?
It was pretty natural for me. Both of my parents were realtors, so I grew up in the real estate world. I remember as a kid being taken to showings, open houses, and viewings. Back in the day, I was sitting in my parent’s study just going through catalogues (back then there was no internet), listening to them on the phones making appointments, doing negotiations, and typing up offers on their typewriter. So those were my weekends. But through that experience, I found something I loved. I learned a lot; the vocabulary, the lingo, the lifestyle. Naturally, I was just drawn to it. As my career progressed, I began to establish amazing friendships with clients. Clients turn into lifelong friends. It’s so special to be part of one of the largest decisions someone will make. You really grow a special bond that is unique to our industry. For me, it’s not an option whether I am staying or not. It’s a part of my life. The rewards are way more than financial, this is who I am.
Can you tell us about a moment in your career where you felt truly empowered?
One of the most pivotal moments in my career was when we realized that we built a community, and a client base, that we connected with morally and with values. We knew we had real trust and connection. We were able to align ourselves with the right buyers and sellers and from that, they referred friends, family, and colleagues. It was truly empowering to know that there was a community out there that I could make an impact on, and they have impacted me as well.
Has the representation of women in real estate changed since you started your career? How do you see this representation changing in the future?
When I started real estate in 2002, I thought I had to have grey hair, drive a Mercedes, and be over the age of 60 to be taken seriously in this industry. I think that over the years, with technology and with social media, with the fact that it’s not just a boy’s club, many women were able to step up and show that they are a force to be reckoned with. So I definitely have seen changes.
What does WOO mean to you and how does it affect the larger Oakwyn community?
When I first started I could count on one hand how many female-led teams there were in Vancouver. Now, there are countless strong, female-led teams. WOO is phenomenal because it supports that growth. It really attracts like-minded women, and these women are here at the brokerage with us. I hope that WOO continues to grow, and I know it will. Being part of a company that commits to events such as WOO, means that upcoming female agents are at least five steps ahead of where I was when I first started. You’re already walking into a family that’s going to keep you on your pedestal.
What drives you to be successful in this industry?
I think naturally it is in me to just keep going. I’ve been told by my coaches that I’m a bit of a perpetual worker. There’s no stop for me, I don’t see an end. I’m driven by the fact that I was raised by a very independent, strong mother who always said, “You just keep going until you can’t go anymore.” I’m also driven to lead by example for my sons. I want them to have respect and understanding of what women can do, and to make sure that they grow into really great men.
Can you tell us about your work with the Kidney Foundation?
I’m really proud to be a part of that organization. I got involved with the Kidney Foundation because of my daughter. When my daughter was 16 we discovered she had end-stage kidney disease. That was a life-changing moment for our family. I immediately gave her a kidney transplant and I quickly learned a lot about kidney disease. All of that information made me want to get involved, so I created a walk for awareness and to encourage organ donor sign-ups. We ended up raising about $30,000. I realized that I wanted to keep doing this, to make it a priority to give back to the world. Just as I made that decision, I got a call from the Kidney Foundation offering me a National Director role. It was as if everything was aligning. So I sit on the board with many very successful volunteers and I’m really proud to be supporting this organization.
What does being a woman in business mean to you?
I think that women have to put up with a lot of judgement because we are women. But I also think that being a woman in business is a real advantage. Women are natural nurturers of the human soul. As a nurturer, you have to take the time to connect with a person and really find out about their needs. That really means listening and helping them. In a profession that is based around connection and help, that’s a big asset to your career. I think women have an opportunity to excel by tapping into what we naturally do.
How do you personally manage and empower your team?
I am constantly motivating myself to improve this skill. I find that managing my team, who happens to be my family, is a very difficult task. We’re family, we come with a lot of baggage. So, it’s constantly making me explore new ideas of management. I think I inspire my team, I always know on Mother’s Day because that’s when I get the cards telling me they are thankful for my guidance.
You are a mother, a businesswoman, a philanthropist, among many other roles. How do these roles complement each other?
In the roles that I play, I think they are all service-oriented. I think when you focus your time and energy on serving others, it’s very rewarding, and you will naturally be successful. That’s how they complement each other. It can be difficult to find balance. Finding balance is like walking on a tightrope, you are constantly making adjustments to stop yourself from falling. You have to be careful not to be too hard on yourself because you are never going to be perfect. I think I’m lucky though, because in those roles when I find success, it is really self-satisfying.