Fostering balance for women in the real estate industry has been an almost three-decade pursuit for the West Australian director.
Speaking on a recent episode of The Wire, the executive director and co-founder of Western Australia-based Realmark, shared some insight into the experiences that led her to establish a mentoring program aimed at supporting women in the business.
Discussing what the real estate industry was like for women when Ms Percudani and her husband established Realmark in 1989, she recalled how little time or attention was paid to her as a professional because of her gender.
“Back in those days, I would say that I was invisible; I didn’t exist pretty much. I was working with my husband, so I was very supportive of him, and I did everything that I needed to do, but in my position, I was pretty much invisible because there were very few if any women who were in that role,” she remembered.
She worked to raise her profile in the industry by taking on front-facing tasks.
“I made myself become visible by attending as many events [as possible] and being at the forefront communicating with people, just allowing people to know that I was there and that I could help them,” she said.
Though she was far from the only woman in the industry, the lack of any arena in which they could convene meant that there wasn’t much of a support network.
“Other women who were available and who were around in those days sort of stayed in their own little cocoons,” she said. “We didn’t really come together. Also, in those days, there were no networking women events that we could go to.”
Overall, she describes the situation as “extremely isolating”.
Her experience of not only finding her feet in real estate but doing so while she had a young family to care for, made her determined to establish a formal setting for women to support, mentor and learn from each other so that the lessons she learned largely on her own could be used to guide others.
In 2004, she established the company’s Successful Women in Business series to nurture the careers of women at Realmark.
“One day I sat down and did the numbers – 75 per cent of our workforce were women, which is huge,” she recalled of establishing the program.
“I thought, we have a great need here. We have a huge need to be able to find out what it is that these women need. How can they be their best, and what is it that we can do to encourage them to stay in the industry and also to give back and to showcase what they’re capable of? I thought the best thing I could really do is to bring them all together.”
That involved quite the logistical effort on Realmark’s part, but the program showed its power to retain valuable staff through the act of creating community.
“We had women working in offices at one suburb and up north in Karratha and down in Dunsborough. We had women all over Western Australia, and you know how big Western Australia is,” Ms Percudani said.
Ostensibly, the women congregated to listen to a guest speaker, but soon they realised the benefit of simply giving the women in the network an opportunity to meet and get to know one another.
“Most of the time I brought in women who were from the industry [as a speaker] because it was really important for our ladies to see someone who’s been through those journeys and just have an opportunity to share, to network, to engage, to create buddies and be able to say, ‘I can give so and so a call because she’s going through the same thing that I’m going through.’ It was about coming together as a force of strength to be able to support one another, and that’s what we did,” she said.
Though COVID has put something of a dampener on live gatherings lately, it’s still a hallmark event for the company, having grown exponentially over the years. In 2014, Realmark was recognised at the Australian Business Awards for its work helping women to succeed in the real estate industry.
And Ms Percudani is enthusiastic about bringing the program back in full force for 2022. “We have a whole series of events coming forward that we’re going to be launching in the new year.”
While the program has broadened its range to include charitable events to raise money for worthwhile causes, at its core, it’s still informed by Ms Percudani’s desire to enable women to find comfort and success in the industry, even while juggling competing duties, as she was when she got her start.
“I had two young children; I had to manage to look after them, pick them up from school – it was such a juggle, and I just felt like it really is so important to allow women to be able to go back into the workforce, to find themselves again in great roles and great positions particularly in our industry.
“They need to be comfortable that they can lead this life and this career life but still be mums at home and look after their children. I am very much about fostering that balance for the women in this industry.”
Listen to the full conversation with Anita Percudani here.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Based in Sydney, Juliet Helmke has a broad range of reporting and editorial experience across the areas of business, technology, entertainment and the arts. She was formerly Senior Editor at The New York Observer.