What International Women’s Day means to me

International Women’s Day means different things to different people. For some women it is a celebration of all women have achieved, while for others it is a time to focus on future goals and what still needs to be done.

To mark IWD at Elite Agent we turned to female leaders in the real estate industry to ask them what the day means to them, how they’ve grown in their careers and which women they look up to when they need inspiration.

Erin van Tuil

Partner, Knight Frank

What does International Women’s Day mean to you?

International Women’s Day is an important moment in the year for reflection. It is a day where we celebrate the progress that has been made but also where we educate ourselves on where change still needs to occur and recommit ourselves to implementing this change.

It is an international day and therefore a good reminder that women all over the world are struggling to achieve what we take for granted in Australia; an education, health resources, access to a fair legal system. We should take time to recognise the privileges we have here in Australia as women.

This is certainly not to say that we don’t face issues of our own here, many of which have been significantly highlighted, with great impact, in the media over the past 12 months.

International Women’s Day is a fantastic opportunity to highlight what has been achieved in the past 12 months and to celebrate successes, but we certainly shouldn’t limit highlighting successes and failures or our commitment to equity to one day of the year, with the other 364 days we can get a lot done!

How have you grown (in a business and personal sense) since you started in real estate?

I started my career in real estate 15 years ago with Knight Frank in London. Since then I’ve worked through various positions in sales, lettings and property management and project marketing in the UK, Asia and finally, here in Sydney leading the residential sales and marketing of Crown Residences at One Barangaroo, without question Australia’s best prime real estate.

I feel my adult life has absolutely been shaped by my time with Knight Frank, whether it be the incredible colleagues around the world I count as dear friends or the amazing opportunities and places my career has led me to.

When I look back on pivotal moments of personal growth, they occurred in tandem with major career milestones. If you asked young Erin if she thought she would be where I am today, she would say she hoped so but had no idea how to get there! 

Did I think I would ever be working in Australia, or buying a home here as I did recently? Could I imagine myself working on the most iconic tower to be built in this country and the intrinsic, fascinating knowledge that has come with it? No, I didn’t, but I did know that I wanted to be impactful, do something rewarding and something to be proud of.

The past two years have been filled with immense turbulence and change for me, as I’m sure it has been for many others, and I have learnt skills to roll with it and to embrace opportunities as they come. I have committed to saying yes – within reason – and to be open to everything, personally and professionally.

As a younger woman, I was very hard on myself, I took things personally and I assumed that older people in more senior roles wearing suits were smarter or had more to offer than I. These days I am much kinder to myself, more willing to allow others to share the load, and welcoming of change however it manifests in my life.

Life is exciting and unexpected and I don’t want to miss an opportunity because of perceived truths.

What has the industry done to improve women’s career prospects in recent times and what further changes would you like to see?

When I first arrived in Australia from the UK, I experienced condescension, dismissive conversation and was blatantly ignored by some individuals in the industry. I was repeatedly told, “You won’t succeed here because you have no relevant Australian experience” and this likely more so as a woman entering the male dominated sector of project marketing.

Eight years on, I’ve been nominated for the AREA for Most Influential Woman in the Property Market for breaking the mould with what we have achieved at Crown Residences, a feat my team and I accomplished, alongside formidable female colleagues and with the support of the global Knight Frank network every step of the way.

As an industry, we have made strides in gender diversity, inclusion initiatives and commitments, and to be recognised for an award like this demonstrates we are championing and valuing the success of women from all backgrounds and life experiences.

At Knight Frank, we are actively working to achieve a 40:40:20 gender balance across all levels of our organisation by 2023. Our activities to date include actively supporting International Women’s Day; becoming the real estate industry’s first WORK180-endorsed employer to actively recruit women; we participate in the Property Council of Australia’s 500 Women in Property; and we are actively involved in Property Champions of Change Coalition.

We need to show young people starting out and considering a career in property, that this is an industry that’s fun, where you’ll be heard and valued at every level, and your background and gender will not hinder you excelling in your career. We must champion transferrable skills, which we aren’t doing well enough, and look for those different to the conventional candidates.

We also need to be talking about sponsors rather than mentors. Mentors are great but a good network is no substitute for hard work (my favourite mantra) and I wouldn’t be where I am without certain individuals advocating for me and making sure I was seen and heard to advance my career.

Who is a strong woman in the industry you admire and why?

I hesitate to use the word ‘strong’ as it perhaps implies that we can’t have vulnerabilities or you need a ‘strong personality’ as a woman to succeed, which I don’t feel is true. I do, though, work with many women that I admire and I have an incredible group of female colleagues that are supportive, work hard, deliver of their best every day and push through boundaries.

To name-check a few of them; Michelle Ciesielski, our Head of Residential Research in Australia. I, and my colleagues, could not do our jobs half as well without the mass of intelligence she provides to us on a weekly basis, enabling us to provide our clients with solid advice based on fact. She works incredibly hard to support our business and puts the future growth of residential at Knight Frank at the forefront of everything she does with singular focus.

Victoria Garrett, our Head of Residential for APAC in Singapore. It is a diverse and challenging role across multiple countries and time zones, and she has two young children, but is always present and supportive and focused on performance, working hard to ensure we have the resources, connections and support to do deliver our very best for our clients.

And thirdly, Sophia Choo who I have worked with in my direct team for four years and enjoyed every day of it. Her ability to take on multiple tasks and deliver exceptional results across all of them is impressive. She is intuitive, she is supportive and, while not from a property background, has transferred her skills to our industry, listened, learned and succeeded!

Name another strong woman in your life and what she has taught you?

My grandmother, Hennie de Jong. She was an immigrant moving to Australia from the Netherlands as a teenager with her family. She had to leave school early to help with the household and then to earn money to assist in supporting them. She worked in a cannery, putting rabbit in tins, and lived in a shed with her large family when she arrived in Tasmania, a far cry from Europe.

Not once did I ever hear her speak of these experiences in a negative light, she was never a victim of her circumstances. She always said you “Just got on with it” or “We just didn’t think too much about it” or “we just knew that we would find the resources”. She taught me the value of hard work and resilience and that sometimes it’s not worth dwelling on, you just need to get on with it.

Erin van Tuil.

Hannah Gill

Director of Property Management, The Property Collective

What does International Women’s Day mean to you?

It’s an important day to raise awareness and promote the need for equality. It’s an opportunity to recognise and celebrate women and their contribution to our communities, workforce and families. I look forward to the day that it’s a celebration and reflection of significant change having been achieved.

How have you grown (in a business and personal sense) since you started in real estate?

Property management was my first ‘real’ job and I’ve always been aware and grateful of the opportunities and pathways it’s created. It has allowed me to learn, travel and meet amazing people. It has taught me patience, tolerance, negotiation and discipline. And it has reinforced to me the power of consistency, empathy and kindness.

All of these things have shaped me as a person. Our industry is limitless in opportunities and growth and I’ve always tried to make the most of this. I couldn’t be more grateful to be a part of it.

What has the industry done to improve women’s career prospects in recent times and what further changes would you like to see?

Speaking generally, I think the biggest shift has been the industry recognising the importance and value of property management. Given this part of the industry is dominated by women; training, mentoring and growth pathways have come a long way. There are now conferences, events and networking groups that support and celebrate women.

Ultimately, I still think it’s individuals in their own businesses and teams that can drive the biggest shift – change starts in small, consistent steps and if everyone is active and conscious of helping drive necessary change, this results in momentum and, ultimately, movement in the right direction.

Who is a strong woman in the industry you admire and why?

I couldn’t miss an opportunity to give a shout out to property managers! We all know property management is a challenging role but our industry is fortunate to have remarkable managers dedicated to providing an exceptional experience for their clients and supporting their teams to succeed. I admire their strength, resilience and commitment to the role as an essential service to our communities.

Name another strong woman in your life and what she has taught you?

My mum. She forged a pathway and took an unlikely path in journalism long before it was a regular role for women. She worked her whole career in a male dominated industry and did so with grace and integrity.

She raised two kids and managed to make the balance between work and family look easy. I look to her for advice and guidance regularly.

Hannah Gill.

Leanne Pilkington

CEO, Laing+Simmons

What does International Women’s Day mean to you? 

It is an opportunity to celebrate each other’s successes and to be inspired by the incredible things women are doing across the world.

How have you grown (in a business and personal sense) since you started in real estate? 

Given I started in the industry full-time 40 years ago, I have grown a lot. I started on the reception desk and have worked across a diverse range of departments in the industry, which means I have a deep understanding of what so many of our teams go through every day. 

My promotion to a leadership position 20 years ago was actually quite unexpected, so I have really worked hard on developing my skills in that space and will continue to do that.

The industry has been very good to me, so I also think it’s important to give back whenever there is an opportunity, which is why my involvement in the REI and groups like Real Women in Real Estate is so important to me.

What has the industry done to improve women’s career prospects in recent times and what further changes would you like to see?  

A lot has changed, and a lot has stayed the same. Covid highlighted our ability to work from home and many businesses are now providing much more flexibility to their teams. There has also been a huge increase in the variety of roles available, which has encouraged a lot more women to get involved in the industry, and of course some super successful female salespeople, business owners and leaders to take inspiration from. 

The industry is highly focused on numbers, commission and transactions, but that is not the way everyone measures success. Clients that are happy with the results achieved is what is actually important for the reputation of the industry as a whole, and that’s what is more important than generating a massive amount of money.

Who is a strong woman in the industry you admire and why? 

Caroline Bolderston – she continues to reinvent herself and her career while remaining true to her personal values.

Name another strong woman in your life and what she has taught you? 

Tanja Lee is an incredible coach and friend. She has taught me to trust my instincts and get really focused on what is important.

Leanne Pilkington.

Leanne Druery

Sales consultant, RE/MAX Result

What does International Women’s Day mean to you?

International Women’s Day is a global celebration of the achievement of women in many sectors – business, politics, culture and community. I believe in celebrating and empowering women daily, however it is really nice to recognise the importance of ALL women on this day and to raise a toast of bubbles.  

It is extraordinary how far we have come from the first IWD in 1911.

How have you grown (in a business and personal sense) since you started in real estate?

To be honest, I don’t recognise myself! My personal and professional growth has been tremendous since joining the industry. There has been some huge and tough life lessons, the kind that have made me a better person and a better agent.  

I thrive on learning and I am not afraid of change, so each day I look at ways to self-improve. It is really exciting when we lift the lid off the jar, especially in North Queensland. I love putting Mackay on the map and showcasing the success of high performing female agents in regional areas.  

What has the industry done to improve women’s career prospects in recent times and what further changes would you like to see?

Something I truly love about our industry, whether you are male or female, is that the sky is the limit. I have always had a positive and abundance mindset. So, if I really want something, I go out and get it. I work hard, I focus, I stay in my own lane and truly believe that my most important KPI is looking after my people or “tribe”, as I like to call them.

As a solo parent and a female agent, I learnt very fast that I am not super woman, so I enlist help. Developing a team has certainly allowed me to have more flexibility especially with the constant blend of my personal and professional worlds.

Who is a strong woman in the industry you admire and why?

This is a hard question because I actually admire so many.

Melita Bell – I heard her speak at AREC and she really inspired me. I thought, ‘If Melita Bell can do it in Toowoomba, I can do it in Mackay’. Now I have joined RE/MAX I love catching up with her at our annual events.

Hayley Van De Ven – because she would have to be one of the best bosses I have ever worked for. Her energy and enthusiasm is infectious.

Sherrie Storer – I can be quite stubborn and she challenges me constantly to think bigger. Sherrie also has a strong voice and challenges our industry. 

Sam, aka Mumma Bear, from Elite Agent. If it wasn’t for Sam giving me a shot at Transform back in 2017, I truly don’t know if I would have made it. 

“Sometimes the kindness of one person, can change the course of your life forever.”

Name another strong woman in your life and what she has taught you?

I surround myself with strong, supportive women. I believe in the power of the collective.

Every woman I meet has a ‘story’ and when I have the honour of getting to know that story, there is always a lesson that leaves a mark on my heart. My daughter Grace has an inner strength that defies her age and I am hopeful that she will continue to lead the way empowering, encouraging and elevating our next generation of modern women.

Leanne Druery.

Zali Reynolds

Director, Shelter Real Estate

What does International Women’s Day mean to you?

It is a chance to celebrate the amazing women that I am surrounded by. The amazing women that have supported me in my life and career and the ones who continue to have my back and mentor me.

How have you grown (in a business and personal sense) since you started in real estate?

How long have you got? I have become much more attuned to people, their situations and emotions both from a client point of view and a team environment. I have learnt how to be patient with people, and the amazing benefits of delayed gratification. 

I have become a systems machine and leant the benefits of routine and process. Real estate has made me a personal development junkie, it has also taught me not to judge people – some of the wealthiest people I have dealt with have the most modest cars and subdued dress sense. 

I have grown in so many ways that I am so grateful for.   

What has the industry done to improve women’s career prospects in recent times and what further changes would you like to see?

I think the creation of female specific acknowledgements has been great to highlight the amazing women in the industry, but I truly feel that we still have a long, long way to go. It is still very hard for women to juggle the demands of the real estate industry and family life and this is a huge area for us to learn from other industries in introducing flexibility. 

I also feel that a lot of agencies still push women into the traditional role of the property manager or administration and I feel that there is a huge opportunity to use women’s natural skills of rapport building and empathy in the sales arena.

Who is a strong woman in the industry you admire and why?

Wendy Alexander – Former CEO of Barfoot and Thompson.
Wendy is the most beautiful human and she is also such a giving person. Giving of her time, knowledge and she is such an inspiration for women in our industry in terms showing you can make it to the top while still being true to yourself.

Name another strong woman in your life and what she has taught you?

Stefanie Dobro – a power player in the industry who always checks in to make sure I am surviving. Stef has taught me that I am allowed to enjoy life, and for that I will be forever grateful.

Zali Reynolds.

Stefanie Dobro

Director, White House Property Partners

What does International Women’s Day mean to you?

For me International Women’s Day is about recognising and celebrating the unique contribution and positive impact that women are making in the world.

How have you grown (in a business and personal sense) since you started in real estate?

I started in a very male oriented industry and felt that women naturally had the ability to connect, listen, understand and help people in buying and selling real estate. I felt what women were bringing to the table was being overlooked – in fact, I remember some of the successful female agents I worked with being described to me as, “Just a bunch of mums”. 

The majority of the ‘role models’ being held up as ‘successful’ agents were male and that women really needed to step into their value and recognise there was a role for them and that gender (equally race and religion) were no barrier to being a top performer, having a positive impact and making a difference. I also felt there was an opportunity to be authentic and do it our way, not female versions of the male success stories.

Real estate is a wonderful vehicle for personal development and I did the work and worked very hard on my skills and on myself. I looked for mentors and made connections with incredible people inside and outside the industry (both men and women) who supported me in my desire to develop as a person and to achieve my goals, become an exceptional agent and nurturer of others (particularly women) in the industry. 

By doing the work as an agent, I think I helped inspire other women to see that if I could do it, they could too. In 2019, I left the company that I was a shareholder in and set up my own agency to be able to work in alignment with my values. 

This was an extremely scary thing for me to do. I did it because it was time for me to step into my value and know that I was good enough. I did it and it’s worked out and the community has been incredible in its response to the brand. 

It really has allowed me to work in complete alignment with my values and create a great, nurturing and supportive business culture that has already attracted some incredible value-agents.

What has the industry done to improve women’s career prospects in recent times and what further changes would you like to see?

I think by sharing and showcasing women’s success and their stories, the approach they take to their work, both as salespeople and as business owners, we have made huge gains in the industry. This has had a positive impact for the client and been a bit of a wake up call for the industry.

I think by valuing the connections and skills that women bring we have empowered women to understand their value and to use that value to deliver incredible results and careers for women in real estate.

Who is a strong woman in the industry you admire and why?

Oh there are so many strong and courageous women in our industry. I’d like to mention two in particular, starting with Julie Davis, who started as my coach and has become a lifelong friend and coach. Julie is incredibly nurturing and has created an incredible business that helps teams engage the right people to create a successful team environment where everyone works in their flame. She’s done this while supporting her husband Pete through MND. I so admire, appreciate and respect her courage, insight and wisdom.

Sherrie Storror is another incredible woman and leader in our industry who has actually lived the highs and the lows of being an agent – having it all and losing it all and rebuilding – and has now turned that experience into an incredible coaching business.

Sherrie brings a truly informed and unique perspective and incredible knowledge, work ethic and energy to the industry. I think she is having, and will have in the coming years, a massive impact on the industry by helping people become better agents and business owners.

This in turn is helping to create better leaders and better business cultures, as well as a focus on business profitability rather than the more ego-driven GCI.

Name another strong woman in your life and what she has taught you?

Jen Cudmore. Jen is my kinesiologist and alignment coach and a dear friend. She’s really helped me enormously on the personal development side over the past seven years. She has taught me that the power resides in me and that it is what I do, and the energy that I bring to what I do, that really determines how things will play out. 

She’s helped me to understand who I am through her brand archetypes, which has allowed me to align with my values in everything I do. She’s really taught me the power of manifesting and visualisation. She really supported me in stepping up to establish my own business in 2019. She’s always got my back and for that I’m enormously grateful.

Stefanie Dobro.

Holly Komorowski


What does International Women’s Day mean to you?

It’s a day to pause, reflect and acknowledge women in Australia and all around the world, as well as celebrate the diversity of women’s stories. It’s also to acknowledge and give thanks to each of the incredible, resilient, tenacious and passionate women that I am lucky enough to work with every day, at home.byholly. It is also an opportunity to think about my contributions as a woman, business owner, mother and community member.  

I have created a business where women are empowered and have the opportunity to fulfil their goals and career aspirations while being fully supported in their familial lives. I think it is also important to pay homage to the powerful women who have paved the way, allowing myself, my team and so many other women to realise their professional dreams with a sky’s the limit mentality.  

As a mother to gorgeous young people who are living bravely, compassionately and fearlessly, I am very proud and hopeful for the future. 

home.byholly is actively supportive of the local Canberra community. As one example, we have been supporting the Domestic Violence Crisis Service in Canberra for many years, and will continue to do so. The theme for International Women’s Day 22, is #BreakTheBias, which is all about moving toward a gender equal world.

Right now, we are all within a powerful historical moment , with so many brave women and men speaking up and pushing for change. I do believe that with a unified front we can move toward a more equitable and compassionate future. 

How have you grown since you started in real estate?

home.byholly has grown into a predominantly female-lead business in a typically male dominated industry. While we have a fantastic balance of male and female talent within home.byholly, our all female leadership makes us stand out.

Realising the significance of this has made me grow in my role as mentor to women and young women. home.byholly leads by example and I am passionate about empowering and inspiring women to pursue their career aspirations. 

What has the industry done to improve women’s career prospects in recent times and what further changes would you like to see?

I think more women are starting their own businesses and realising positions of leadership within real estate, which means more women are having a greater influence on the culture of their company and the industry as a whole.  

There is an initiative from the Property Council of Australia called, 500 Women in Property, which is an award program that also actively helps to facilitate women into leadership through networking and sponsorship, teaching and mentoring.

The Australian Property Institute has a Workplace Diversity and Culture Award that recognises the promotion of diversity and creation of a progressive workplace. These awards and programs foster awareness and encourage change. Ultimately it would be great to move toward greater equity – more women in leadership and more women owning their own businesses – within the industry.

At home.byholly we have created and deliberately fostered a safe and supportive space for women and encouraged female leadership and growth. Our working environment is collaborative, responsive and inclusive and our supportive presence within community is important. I think these are ways participants, across all industries, can contribute to positive change. 

Who is a strong woman in the industry you admire and why?

I admire the powerful, passionate, intelligent, creative women that I work with at home.byholly. The amazing support that we extend to each other, our determination and shared values are the reasons behind our incredible success.

These women inspire me daily and make me feel incredibly fortunate to work with them and to know them. I really do feel that, together, we can achieve anything. 

Name another strong woman in your life and what she has taught you

My daughters, who teach me every day to remain fearless, strong and empowered. They are all fiercely independent, confident, girls who are actively forging their own paths. I admire them for that and love watching them grow, flourishing within their own individuality. I am very proud and honoured to share my life with such remarkable, compassionate and brave young women. 

Holly Komorowski.

Belinda Tennant 

Director, Thrive Property NT

What does international women’s day mean to you?

To me, International Women’s Day is the celebration of women and our achievements. I’m so grateful for the opportunities that I’ve been given. International Women’s Day is an opportunity for me to recognise and thank all of the incredible women who have supported me in my life.

How have you grown since you started in real estate?

I’ve always worked in real estate – from the early days as a property valuer, then in property management in both the UK and Australia, before starting my own boutique property management company, Thrive Property NT. For me, one of my biggest personal growth lessons has come from recognising that I don’t know people’s stories and backgrounds, but can accept our differences.

What has the industry done to improve women’s career prospects in recent times and what further changes would you like to see?

First and foremost, property managers work so hard and it isn’t always seen. Working in real estate isn’t like a regular 9-to-5 job where you can switch off at the end of the day. Because of this, it’s so important that people are passionate about the industry. Every day is different and it can be really rewarding.

I think it’d be great to see career paths for women built in property management, especially in the NT where there is currently a huge shortage of property managers. This would also include improving wages across the industry, reinforcing education, as well as mentoring and recruitment programs to support the industry in its entirety.

Who is a woman in the industry you admire and why?

I love the work that Natalie South (former BDM for Harcourts Solutions, based in QLD) has done and continues to do. Since having a child, she’s now educating real estate professionals through PMXcite and is absolutely amazing at it.

Name another strong woman in your life and what she has taught you.

My mother, Robyn Miller. She taught me (and my sisters) that women can achieve absolutely anything they put their mind to. Growing up, she worked two, sometimes three, jobs in order to provide the best education for myself and my three sisters. I’ll always be so thankful for her grit and perseverance.

Belinda Tennant.

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