Tuesday, March 8, 2022 is International Women’s Day. To commemorate the occasion, STOREYS is profiling notable women leaders in the real estate estate industry, and the difference they’re making in the residential, commercial, and mortgage spaces.

READ: The Time is Now for Women Mentorship in the Mortgage Industry

READ: Women Leaders Are Changing the Commercial Real Estate Landscape

Erica Smith, Broker of Record and Co-founder, Stomp Realty Inc. and Condo Chicks Inc.

women in real estate

When Erica Smith first got into real estate 17 years ago, she thought it would be a fun hobby to have on the side. Now, as the co-founder and broker of record for the all-female Stomp Realty Inc. and Condo Chicks Inc., it's anything but.

"I went to university to become a teacher but I would always find myself on weekends going into open houses," Smith said. "I always had a fascination with homes and my parents said to me, 'Erica, you should try and get your real estate license on the side.' I actually went into it kind of just as a hobby, and it turned very quickly into a career."

Smith says she was fortunate to find success in her first year as an agent, and not long after, she met fellow agent and her now business partner Lorena Magallanes while working for Royal LePage.

"Her and I were selling pre construction projects and we thought okay, you know, we should start building a team of women and Condo Chicks was born," Smith said.

After about three years of growing their Condo Chicks team under the Royal LePage brokerage, Smith and Magallanes, seeking more creative control over major components of their business like marketing, made the move to open up their very own brokerage: Stomp Realty Inc. With the exception of one part-time male employee, the brokerage is entirely made up of women from the agents to the administrative staff -- something no other Toronto brokerage has done and something Smith sees as a definite asset.

"I think it just naturally, organically happened, and I wouldn't have it any other way." Smith said. "I think women really care. It's not just a transaction. We build a relationship and it's a lifelong relationship."

Although a large percentage of real estate agents are women in Toronto, the numbers often lessen as you look to the executive level. Smith says she's believes that it's still hard for women to move up in the real estate industry, despite often being top performers.

"I really do," Smith said. "I find that a lot of men are really intimidated by working with women... even though I know things are changing. There's still that kind of thing where it can be challenging for a man to report to a woman."

But the collaboration and teamwork she's felt not only with them women on her team but with other women across the industry has been inspiring.

"I'm in the middle of doing a transaction right now with a woman broker from Burlington, and the process is always different when you're dealing with a woman," Smith said. "You want to work together, like you'll do anything to make it work. And she's with the Oakville board and I don't have access to a lot of the inventory that she does, and she's so nice that she's sending me the comparables to show my client. You can't always look at the other agent as competition. You have to work together in order to have both your client's needs met."

Nicolle Scavuzzo, Chief Operating Officer, Chestnut Park Real Estate Limited

Chestnut Park

A background in real estate isn't required to become a powerhouse in the real estate industry. At least that's what Chestnut Park's Chief Operating Officer Nicolle Scavuzzo is proving.

After more than two decades of crafting marketing strategies and delivering customer insights for major brands across the globe like Telus, Best Buy, American Express, and Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, Scavuzzo made the switch to Toronto-based brokerage Chestnut Park Real Estate in September of last year.

"I've had this great opportunity to work with some very recognizable brands in many different locations in global capacities, and I really help companies transform and modernize their experiences and the way they go to market," Scavuzzo said. "So when I got the call to join Chestnut Park, I was so excited because it felt like the right place to blend all of my experience."

This isn't the first time Scavuzzo came into a role with no industry-specific experience. Prior to taking on her previous role of Vice President of Global Guest Recognition and Insight with Four Seasons, which she held for six years, Scavuzzo had never worked in the hospitality industry.

"What is really interesting is sometimes having that external view of a company does help you just bring a fresh perspective," Scavuzzo said. "Since I've been here in the past four months, we've brought in some new leaders who are outside of the industry on purpose because I wanted that ability to round out the leadership team with people with different backgrounds to bring a new, fresh perspective that balances all of the knowledge that our existing staff has. It just helps us challenge the norm a little bit."

Of course coming into an entirely new industry does bring its own challenges and a steep learning curve.

"I spent my first few weeks really understanding the business and how it works, trying to get comfortable with what the model is and how we're unique as a brokerage, and then spending a lot of time being curious and listening," Scavuzzo said. "I feel like it's such a great culture here. I feel really respected, I feel appreciated, and I feel very humbled by what I'm able to learn again."

In her time at Chestnut Park, Scavuzzo says she's seen a number of women helping to make the brand what it is, noting that she hadn't previously had the chance to work with as many women before.

"Some of our highest performing agents are women, they really are," Scavuzzo said. "And what I love about watching our performers right now is I see these women have it all. Whereas in other industries, I've seen women who kind of get trapped, or have to make a decision at some point in their career between family and career. I know that's changing and I'm very glad to have seen that change throughout my career, but in real estate, I'm just so impressed to see all of these women truly have it all."