“Women are every bit as capable of being good leaders as men.” So says a Pew Research Center Survey conducted between November 12 – 21, 2014, and so says common sense. Yet, parity in the real estate workplace is still lacking, in spite of all our efforts over the last two decades to change this inequality.

The simple fact of stating this aloud can cause a certain kind of ear to go deaf. How do we overcome that? How do women “make the case” without alienating anyone? These are tough questions, and the answers seem to indicate that women are held to higher standards, or at least different standards.

I will be presenting a series of video interviews with women who hold leadership positions within the home building industry so we can learn from them and their experiences. This inaugural video interview is with Cheryl O’Connor, CEO of HomeAid in Walnut Creek, CA. In a bright and lengthy career involving many aspects of the home builder industry, O’Connor has become one of the most respected voices in the industry. She was inducted into the 2016 California Homebuilder Foundation Hall of Fame on June 21, 2016.

Beginning this series with Cheryl O’Connor makes a lot of sense, to which anyone who knows her would eagerly attest. She is smart and kind and she really knows her stuff.

The home building industry has an established and recognizable old guard. This was the case when O’Connor moved to California from Buffalo around 40 years ago, and it remains the same today. O’Connor’s induction in the hall of fame places her into a league with 14 women and over 200 men.

To put it another way, we can borrow from O’Connor’s description that this is “not an easy industry for women.” This is due to the fact that, in addition to performing at the highest levels, we have to walk the tight rope between aggressive and assertive without losing the respect of our peers. Nevertheless, O’Connor has risen to the top while embracing every challenge along the way. Having overcome the obstacles and walking the balance of earning respect without being “aggressive”, O’Connor’s thoughts on what it takes for women to succeed are poignant.

I was especially interested to hear her thoughts on getting ahead:

  • Find a mentor!
  • Challenge yourself instead of feeling defeated! (Push through discouragement!)
  • Appreciate the concept of feeling empowered to improve.

O’Connor is a great kick-off for this project. As the project evolves, we’ll get practical advice on career advancement, learn about the rise of women in leadership positions, consider the consequences and opportunities both for the “old guard” and the generations rising up the ladder, and begin to think about a seat in the C-Suite. There are competitive advantages for smart companies who wish to build a positive culture and attract the best and the brightest employees, and this series will explore what many of today’s leaders see as threats, as opportunities, and as valuable lessons from their own experiences.

Have a look at the video here:

Gender and Leadership in Home Building