7 women share their top a-ha moments from WomanUP! 2024 – Inman

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“Don’t look. Just step,” Michele Williams Harrington told WomanUP! attendees, relaying a story of one of her most difficult moments in Marine Corps training.

Putting her fear of heights aside, Harrington recalled climbing up a tall tower above a swimming pool with the sole objective of jumping off and into the water. The instructor told her to hug herself and take the step. So she looked at him, crossed her arms over her chest and took the plunge.

“Sometimes you have to take that next step. You have to do what you know you need to do, and just fuck your fear,” she said. Williams Harrington was joined onstage by 2024 California Association of Realtors (C.A.R.) President Melanie Barker (Navy), and Anita Legacy Blue (Air Force), 2024 president of LGBTQ+ Real Estate Alliance, all of whom shared stories of overcoming adversity and how it made them stronger, more resilient leaders in their post-military careers.

This panel was among many inspiring sessions during the two-day WomanUP! conference, which was held this year at the Laguna Cliffs Marriott Resort and Spa in Dana Point, California, June 11-13.

WomanUP! is a California Association of Realtors initiative founded in 2017. As a mission-driven organization, it has brought together women from all over the country.

What is its mission?

“We have a three-part mission to identify, develop, and connect women in this industry. We identify the tools and strategies you need to make bold moves in real estate. We provide you with resources and events to develop your skills as a leader. We create opportunities to connect with other amazing leaders in the national brokerage community.”

This year’s conference’s theme was: “Connect. Collaborate. Create.” By all accounts, attendees walked away with enthusiasm, inspiration and plenty of takeaways.

Top a-ha moments

As per usual, the stage was chock-full of inspiring women in real estate sharing their personal stories in hopes of helping attendees become better leaders.

The military panel was one of my top moments. All three of those women served in the military in the ’90s, when women weren’t allowed to do many of the “cool” jobs like helicopter door gunner.

“I wanted to be a grunt. I’ve always been like a rough-and-tumble girl, and I wanted to shoot big guns and crawl around in the dirt, but [women] couldn’t do that back then,” Williams Harrington said.

Also, back then, “don’t ask, don’t tell” was in full swing, a rule that Legacy Blue, the president of the LGBTQ+ Real Estate Alliance, had to live with. The adversity, sexism and mistreatment these women overcame to become strong leaders in their own rights today will stick with me long after the event.

Here are a few others that stood out to me as well:

Social media guru Katie Lance gave a phenomenal presentation on using ChatGPT to make your day easier and keep your client touch points personable. You can get a copy of her presentation here.

Intero Real Estate Services’ Cathy Sommerville Scharetg spoke about accomplishing her dream of giving a TED talk. She went in for dress rehearsals the day before — and completely blanked.

She could see in her audience’s eyes that she was bombing. They wouldn’t make eye contact. The Ted Talk people gave her an out, telling her she could come back another time. But she went back the next day and rocked it.

You can watch her Ted Talk below. What did she learn from the experience?

“Anything worth doing is worth doing poorly at first,” Sommerville Scharetg said. That’s an adage I will certainly keep close and pass along to others.

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Mimi Nartey was the first American-born person to represent Ghana as a heritage player on the senior national women’s team and the first woman to finish her Ivy League education and play in the Women’s World Cup. Later, she gave a TED Talk about African Women’s Soccer and empowerment, which you can watch below. (Also, you might know her husband, Kofi Nartey.)

She talked about sports psychology and powering up for the third quarter, which will require a different strategy than what has worked before. Changing strategies in your third quarter, whether it’s the changes coming from the commission lawsuits or within your personal life or marriage, is critical for coming through it with a win in the fourth quarter. This session left me thinking about how to recognize, analyze and strategize for the future.

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Other attendee takeaways 

Here are the takeaways that other attendees shared with me.

Editor’s note: These responses were sent via email or text and were edited for grammar, style and clarity. 

Bernice Ross

Bernice Ross, BrokerageUP, RealEstateCoach.com, RealEstateWealthForWomen.com 

When WomanUP! first launched in 2017, the goal was to help more women start their own brokerages. In 2024, Sara Sutachan shared how the WomanUp! mission has expanded to help more women leaders find their voice both inside and outside the real estate industry.

With Debra Ferrier serving as the first female CEO in C.A.R.’s history and Melanie Barker as president, along with a predominantly female leadership team, 2024 is the year that the original vision for WomanUP! has finally become a reality.

Anita Legacy Blue

Anita Legacy Blue

Anita Legacy Blue, 2024 president, LGBTQ+ Real Estate Alliance, eXp agent

The WomanUP! conference is a special conference where I was able to connect, collaborate and start to create long-lasting relationships! To be surrounded by such encouraging and supportive women was so amazing.  

I felt so welcomed into the sisterhood, and I was congratulated for being such a courageous advocate for my LGBTQ+ community. I’m proud and humbled to have been invited as a two-panel speaker.

Get involved on your local level, show up, take a stand and make a difference.

Beena Khakhria

Beena Khakhria

Beena Khakhria, broker associate/Realtor at Lifetime Realty and Investments

It was my first time attending WomanUP! 2024 — a transformative experience where I encountered inspiring women committed to mutual success. I delved into diverse aspects of business, social media and AI, forging meaningful connections with like-minded peers.

I walked away not just with new knowledge but also with a renewed sense of energy and inspiration. Anyone beginning a career in real estate should plan to attend this annually.

Cara Ameer

Cara Ameer

Cara Ameer, Coldwell Banker global luxury agent

WomanUp! was time well spent, dedicated to empowering us by elevating our professionalism, commitment to excellence and authenticity in all that we do, not just in real estate but in all facets of life. 

Finding your voice; overcoming fears; taking on challenges; how to push through the “third quarter” of your real estate business, career and life were all tangible takeaways. Don’t apologize for who you are. Take action, and get involved.

Real estate is a powerful platform to make a difference in people’s lives, not just in respect to buying and selling homes, but also in making a difference in your communities on a local, state and national level. 

Here are some of my bullet points:

  • Lean into crises — they are opportunities.
  • Never say I wish I had …
  • Write down what is holding you back.
  • Competence leads to confidence.
  • When you follow the masses, the m’s are silent.
  • Embrace being awkward.

Lori Namazi

Lori Namazi

Lori Namazi, founder and CEO of Namazi Real Estate Resources

  • The experience of filling my soul with the WomanUp! Community. You cannot describe what WomanUp! does for you — you have to feel it and experience it.  
  • Weigh out the risk of taking action versus the risk of NOT taking action. — Candace Doby. Rather than a “pro and con” list, create a list that compares risk to risk.
  • Liberate yourself from the “busyness.” — Leslie Appleton Young. We find ourselves overscheduled and always saying yes. It’s OK to not be so busy.
  • Rate yourself on your relationships from 1-10. Make improvements and bridge the gap. — Tammi Bonnell. Go deeper with your relationships.
  • What’s new, what’s now, what’s next?  — Cathy Scharetg. Always think about the future; we cannot change the past.

Caroline Nguyen

Caroline Nguyen

Caroline Nguyen, Surterre Properties Luxury Real Estate Brokerage

  • Picking up the phone and calling someone is so powerful. A text message or email can get lost in the mix.
  • Build relationships to help others move forward.
  • What makes a great leader? Successful ones who care and lead with grace.
  • Keynote speaker Candace Doby was my ultimate favorite. Her whole talk was super inspirational. She mentioned that “Courage is a choice to face risk for a worthy  purpose.”
  • The panel with Leslie Appleton Young, Valerie Torelli, Sabrina Brown and Eileen Oldroyd. Ladies who took it to the next level. One of the key takeaways I have from these ladies is to “PAUSE!” We live in a bubble of purpose and inner peace. You get admiration when you are a leader that releases endorphins. But we need to add value to the transaction. That makes it worth it. Finding my voice is really important. To be my authentic self. 
  • Sara Sutachan and Ginger Wilcox’s session about leadership was very inspiring. I learned that listening is important in my ways when you are a leader. When you can do this, meditation is where it keeps you grounded and keeps you going.
  • From Instagram real estate celebrity Chelsea Peitz — all I can say is incredible! She had me from start to finish. She talked about the science of the screen-to-screen relationship and social media. “Viable, not viral.” The more that you are relatable,  the more that you will be likable to the social media platform.

Phoenicia Friese

Phoenicia Friese

Phoenicia Friese, Windermere Desert Properties

What an awesome event! This year’s WomanUp! conference in Dana Point felt like we all bonded. It helped me stay motivated, reminding me that being in an uncomfortable zone is temporary.

It boosted my productivity by encouraging me to be more calendar-driven, provided actionable strategies for success, and led to many potential referrals with other women who struggle with the same things I do in the real estate industry. It was absolutely incredible!

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