Redefining leadership: real estate’s leading ladies gather in Sydney


Establishing themselves in a male-dominated industry, balancing life with work, and the leadership qualities needed to excel in the sector, were just some of the topics covered at the annual Canapes and Conversations networking event this week.

Hosted by the Leading Ladies of Real Estate initiative, the event attracted more than 120 real estate professionals to Sydney’s Beta Bar to see Vivien Yap, Principal of Ray White Dalkeith | Claremont in Perth, and Emily Davidson, one of BresicWhitney’s highest performing agents, take to the stage.

Leading Ladies NSW Chair, Bridgette Collis, hosted the event and said the Leading Ladies of Real Estate was started to encourage and empower women from across the real estate industry.

“We want to bring women together and develop opportunities for professional development,” Ms Collis said. 

“The feedback from this year’s events and webinars is how much our members have loved the community that’s been built for mentoring relationships, and we’re so proud to continue to foster that.” 

The event’s panel was hosted by Elite Agent Managing Editor, Samantha McLean, who led Ms Yap and Ms Davidson through a conversation on their inspiring careers.

Ms Yap said her first week in real estate was a shock to the system. 

“The first week I went home and was very disappointed and frustrated as I couldn’t find anyone to help me,” she said.

“I felt there was a lot of backstabbing, people not calling back, no one having your back. 

“It was so different from my first career in pharmacy where everyone supported each other – it wasn’t competitive like real estate.

“It was very dog eat dog. Within two-and-a-half years I thought I had to start my own culture if I couldn’t find the culture I wanted anywhere else.”

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More than 120 real estate professionals attended the event.

Ms Davidson said she stumbled into real estate after deferring university. 

She was initially part of a mother-daughter team at Ray White New Farm with her mum, Christine Rudolph, before she moved to Sydney.

“I didn’t know anyone here, but I had my real estate background,” Ms Davidson recalled.

“I met with Maclay Longhurst and as soon as we spoke I remember thinking ‘you’re hungry, you’ve got vision. There’s an opportunity here.’”

Both women said they had to prove themselves early on in their real estate career. 

“I knew I needed to transform and present myself differently,” Ms Yap said. 

“I wanted to come across as different to who I was as a pharmacist. 

“I needed to prove it to my clients, but also to myself, that I was going to be a success in real estate.

“I became known for my customer experience and always giving vendors and buyers the most exceptional service possible, and I wanted to make sure they trusted me.” 

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Corie-Lea Forsack of Ray White NSW | ACT, Bridgette Collis, and Leanne Pilkington, CEO and Co-owner of Laing+Simmons.

Ms Davidson said her initial role as a personal assistant was harder to break away from. 

“There can be a stigma around agents working in an admin role who want to move into sales and I felt I had to continually prove myself,” Ms Davidson said. 

“To get ahead I would do my admin role during the day, and then absorb everything I possibly could at night.”

Ms McLean rounded out the interview with two very pertinent questions – one about leadership qualities and one about the talent crisis. 

“Women are taking the stage as top performers all throughout the country and taking on leadership roles,” Ms McLean said. “What leadership qualities do you look for?” 

“Honesty and integrity,” Ms Davidson said.

“I look for people who have initiative and are always there to help,” Ms Yap said. 

“People who would put the team before themselves.”

So how do you find and keep good people?

“Everyone needs to feel they’re aligned within a team. Some people might look good on paper,” Ms Davidson said. 

“But at the end of the day they might not be hungry enough, or might not see the whole team as a collective. 

“The recruitment process needs to ensure everyone in the team feels comfortable, and this will mean the team can grow and feel respected in the process.” 

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Ms Yap said she had a belief about “hiring very slowly but firing very fast”.

“It’s a process – on paper they may look good but it’s about how they perform,” Ms Yap said.

“To keep your team accountable you need to treat them with respect and that they feel they can be leaders one day. 

“Everyone wants to climb a ladder and it’s your responsibility to carve out these paths for them.”

The Leading Ladies network continues to grow and come together for these important special events. 

Buyers advocate, Lisa Shapiro, said the event was “very inspirational”. 

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“I loved being in a room full of such powerful women that have used their own talents and beliefs in themselves to become their own brand and stand proud in their own skin to be the successes that they are today,” Ms Shapiro said. 

DiJones Real Estate’s Nikita Thota said she loved hearing the stories of women in the room about how they got to where they are today.

“I think as women we need to be put in more rooms like this, surrounded by other inspirational and driven women,” she said.

Leanne Pilkington, Co-owner and Chief Executive Officer of Laing+Simmons, also enjoyed the night. 

“I loved hearing from inspirational women who are doing well in the industry and it was so great to hear their stories tonight,” she said.



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