President Sherri Souza offers insight on why joining the organization is a great return on investment.
Sherri Souza, CRS, GRI, PMN, is an experienced REALTOR®, with 16 years’ experience as a broker/owner with Independent Women Brokers in Livermore, Calif. She’s also a successful leader as the 2017 National President of the Women’s Council of REALTORS®, a 12,500-member National Association of REALTORS® affiliate organization founded in 1938.
OnCourse Learning Real Estate asked Souza about the Women’s Council and advice for women in real estate wanting to further their careers.
OCL: What is the Women’s Council of REALTORS®?
Souza: The Women’s Council of REALTORS® is a professional business organization, centered toward women in real estate. Our mission is to advance women as business professionals in the real estate industry, and in their own communities.
We do that by providing an educational platform to help them acquire skills that will assist them in business. Then, by getting involved in the organization on a leadership level, we help develop leadership skills that are transferable to business, to your community and to the industry at large.
OCL: How has being part of this organization helped you in your career?
Souza: Becoming a REALTOR® wasn’t a destination for me; it was an accident. My husband, who had been in the real estate industry for 23 years when I met him, decided, when I was considering a job change, that I should come to work with him. I had always been interested in real estate and had gone to real estate school, but the market wasn’t good at the time I had completed my courses. And I decided to stay my course in sales.
Once I agreed to join him in business, he advised me to join the Women’s Council of REALTORS® right off the bat. I felt very conflicted because the business was so overwhelming to me that I really wanted to get a foothold with what I was doing as a real estate professional before I got engaged with any kind of organization.
But, as it turned out, it was probably the best thing I could have done for myself.
It provided me a large network of professionals who were experienced; who were willing to share their resources, their approach to the business; and I met affiliates that would help me in my business, that were trustworthy and accountable.
So, it got me off on the right foot.
OCL: What struck you most about being a member of the Women’s Council?
Souza: The thing that I was most passionate about was I could see how the Women’s Council was helping new real estate professionals. I could see how it was helping women, who may not have had corporate experience. They were learning and growing exponentially within the organization and within the industry. And I couldn’t see anything else that was doing the same thing.
I had taken numerous educational courses. I completed my GRI course. I became a CRS designee. And none of those gave me what Women’s Council gave me, which was a very nurturing, supportive environment to grow personally and professionally.
OCL: Could you share one of the skills you learned as a member, and why it’s important to women?
Souza: I realized I didn’t have to do everything myself. I realized that I was not good at everything and that there were resources out there that could do parts of my business — accounting, bookkeeping, assistance, transaction coordination … I learned that I would need to rely on some help to do those things that I wasn’t good at and maybe that I didn’t want to do.
I asked: What was it that I really wanted to spend my time doing? Where was my return on investment? It was out there being with the people, shaking hands (face-to-face), getting to know people in my community, building trust and learning about how to market myself in my community to maintain a presence.
OCL: For the reader who is just getting her feet wet in the real estate business, what do you recommend?
Souza: Join the Women’s Council of REALTORS®. Why? Because you can talk to your fellow members about your challenges and your successes in business. It’s a very warm, nurturing, supportive environment. We do a lot of problem solving for one another in our conversations, networking opportunities in our social mixers. We talk about our transactions and the different challenges that we’ve had, and, perhaps, how we’ve dealt with things that turned out successfully.
The other members in the organization are great people for problem-solving and keeping on top of the technology that’s out there.
OCL: According to the website, the Women’s Council of REALTORS® offers a leadership academy, a national conference, regional meetings, online education and network tools. Are there other benefits?
Souza: If a member is going to resource us for a referral network, it’s a huge opportunity. As members, we’re all connected, but it goes beyond that. It goes into friendships and business relationships outside our own areas. When we hold our national conferences, which are held twice a year, you have an opportunity to meet other business professionals that can help you with referrals.
When you actually establish those relationships and trust is gained, then you’re going to be that person that they’re going to reach out to when a referral comes to them that they can’t service. Whereas, if you stay in your local area, you’re dealing with your competitors all the time. Everybody is vying for the same business. When you reach out beyond that, you open possibilities for a huge referral business.
OCL: How much does it cost for a person to join?
Souza: Dues differ from state to state. Typically, the average membership is $175 a year.
I think the return on investment for the membership dollars can’t be found anywhere else. If you use your membership wisely, and you use [the Women’s Council of REALTORS®] as a networking and business skill building and affiliate relationship building organization, then you’re going to get way more than your investment. And it will pay off in the long term tremendously.
OCL: Is it only for women?
Souza: No. About 10% of our members are men. The reason that we attract men as members is because we have a very supportive environment that feels like family. And that is not an environment that exists anywhere else in the real estate industry.
We need men, because they balance us. Like the women, the men realize value in Women’s Council. Nowhere else can you get education, leadership development and training and a nationwide referral network in one place. I like to say that the smart men are members of the Women’s Council of REALTORS®.