Featuring Shoshanna & Co. of Compass
story by LIESEL SCHMIDT | photography by JONATHAN THORPE
Like a boss.
It’s a battle cry adopted by women in industries of every kind, claiming their place at the top of the mountain. And while they have proven their worth, their acumen and their ability to not only hold their own but to excel, women still fight to break the glass ceiling. Even with all the glass shards scattered around them, women remain standing in a place behind men in terms of pay and perception.
Like many of the industries once dominated by men, real estate is one that saw a great shift in the 1950s, when post-war America was both recovering from loss and booming in the face of victory. The nation already saw the ways women stepped in to fill the needs of so many jobs left vacant during WWII, and the workforce had exploded. But when the men came back from war and reclaimed their jobs in factories and offices, these women found other ways to provide for their families. One of those areas in which they excelled was real estate.
The reasons for this are innate, as women naturally tend to possess skills required to be a successful agent. They are often effective communicators, active listeners and masterful at time management and multitasking. Women also tend to be passionate about architecture and design, as well as the desire to create welcoming spaces. Empathizing and listening intently—highly valuable skills at the negotiating table—are skills women often possess, which help build feelings of trust between clients and agents.
“I think women generally succeed in this industry because they have an innate ability [to] connect with clients on a personal level. This, coupled with a heightened attention to detail, the ability to be expressive and communicate well and a knack for problem-solving gives them a distinct edge." - Shoshanna Tanner
“A woman’s success in real estate can be attributed to a combination of factors,” agrees Shoshanna Tanner, J.D, LL.M. at Compass Real Estate. “I think women generally succeed in this industry because they have an innate ability [to] connect with clients on a personal level. This, coupled with a heightened attention to detail, the ability to be expressive and communicate well and a knack for problem-solving gives them a distinct edge. In my experience, women also often excel at creating a holistic experience for clients, not simply a transactional one. Moms, especially, tend to do very well in real estate, as they already have tons of practice multitasking, often managing the emotional needs of their kids and getting many things done in a limited period.”
As much progress as women have made in the real estate industry, however, their place at the top is still disturbingly small in terms of numbers. Surveys show that women represent approximately 36 percent of the industry but hold less than 10 percent of C-suite positions. Thankfully, there are firms who actively work toward eliminating barriers within the industry by supporting the success of their female employees—which gives promise that those numbers are changing.
“Within my brokerage at Compass Realty, as well as more broadly in the DMV, many of the top producers, team leaders and brokers are women,” says Realtor Shoshanna Tanner, who has been in real estate since 2010 and joined the team at Compass seven years ago. “At Compass, one of our guiding principles is ‘collaboration without ego.' I think women are particularly good at collaborating with others and we recognize the importance of having a support system in our industry. I think with the rise of social media, many like-minded women in real estate with an abundance mentality have gravitated towards each other. Real estate can be a very stressful and fast-paced environment and being able to multitask and network is even more important than ever.”
“I believe women will continue to see real estate as a viable way to have a lucrative career... They are making the most effective use of the wave of innovation and new technologies impacting the industry. I think the best way for women to dominate in the field is through being authentic, competent, relatable and offering value.” - Shoshanna Tanner
As an agent, Tanner understands the demands, but also the advantages that real estate affords and why the industry appeals to so many women, especially those with families. “I think the primary reason real estate is a good career for someone with a family is because of the flexibility,” she says. “From personal experience, however, I think it is disingenuous to say that you can have [a] balanced life in the real estate field, especially if you are just starting out or have young kids. In my opinion, to be really successful in real estate, you need to always be available to your clients, be responsive and understand how time-sensitive things can be, especially in a more competitive real estate market like we have had for the last few years. Thankfully, in this post-COVID world, people are more accustomed to Zoom meetings and virtual closings, but early on in my career, I spent most of my nights and weekends helping my buyer clients search for their perfect home or I was at Home Depot picking out paint colors and light fixtures for my newest listing. Now that I have a team, I have realized the importance of delegation. As a type-A former attorney, delegating was hard to do initially. But now, after lots of practice, I know I personally have a much better work/life balance. If you have a great support system at home and in your office, manage your time well and are organized, it can absolutely be done.”
Shoshanna's understanding of what having that strong support system at the office led her to creating her own team. Elissa Laderach has been a Team Realtor with Shoshanna & Company for four years and considers her career to be so much more than a job, saying "A lot of strength comes from confidence. That sense of confidence in who I was and what I could accomplish was something I developed over time when I stepped into the real estate world at age 23, in a city where no one knew I existed. The more I dug in and the more experience I gained, my confidence grew and became my strength. Despite looking like a teenager, I put myself out there to make real connections and continually worked hard to break the barriers of first impressions. It was like something unlocked. My business started to compound, and I’ve been growing year over year ever since."
"A lot of strength comes from confidence. That sense of confidence in who I was and what I could accomplish was something I developed over time... The more I dug in and the more experience I gained, my confidence grew and became my strength." - Elissa Laderach
The newest member of Shoshanna & Company, Victoria Dowker, has been a Realtor for two years. And though she is still learning from her colleagues and growing as a real estate professional, she has a powerful understanding of what it means to be a woman in real estate. "Getting your foot in the door when you're just starting out in your career can seem like a daunting task--especially for a young female agent. As a field traditionally dominated by seasoned professionals who are often men, real estate may feel like another planet. Staying consistent and open-minded and creating lasting connections are all musts! I'm flipping the script and embracing the excitement of this journey because breaking through these barriers and forging a triumphant path is not only achievable but an exhilarating adventure waiting to unfold!"
Though Tanner has spent the last decade and a half in real estate, she was a tax attorney at the IRS Office of Chief Counsel for 13 years. Her path changed when her father was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer. “I had a bit of an existential crisis after his diagnosis,” she says. “I’d basically grown up in the real estate business with a father who was a real estate attorney, developer and broker back in Canada, where I am from. My father’s illness brought to light the fact that there was a huge disconnect between my work and my personality. It caused me to reevaluate what I was good at and the things I enjoyed most. I’ve always loved design and architecture and I am inherently a very creative person. In retrospect, tax law wasn’t the best fit for me. I needed to be around people, not the tax code. I felt a compelling need to be more impactful in others’ lives and I knew I could use my skills as a problem solver, negotiator and connector, which I’d honed as an attorney, to do so. I went part-time at the IRS and got my real estate license. I actually did both for a few years. After a couple of years helping many clients with their real estate needs, I quit the IRS and haven't looked back since.”
"Getting your foot in the door when you're just starting out in your career can seem like a daunting task... I'm flipping the script and embracing the excitement of this journey because breaking through these barriers and forging a triumphant path is not only achievable but an exhilarating adventure waiting to unfold!" - Victoria Dowker
Looking forward, Tanner has a clear vision of where she believes real estate will lead women. “I believe women will continue to see real estate as a viable way to have a lucrative career,” she says. “Many women I know are also using real estate as a stepping stone for other related businesses through social media collaboration, coaching and real estate investing. They are making the most effective use of the wave of innovation and new technologies impacting the industry. I think the best way for women to dominate in the field is through being authentic, competent, relatable and offering value.”