Networking is a key component of a thriving real estate business, and professional affiliations facilitate this activity. Miami Agent explores the Women’s Council of Realtors, a 68-year-old organization devoted to generating the information, higher education and business contacts necessary for Realtors to develop relevant skills and professional credibility in a changing business environment.
By Alexa Caravia
The 1930s brought apple-sellers to city street corners and breadlines to urban charity houses; unemployment figures escalated and federal forces concentrated on bringing Americans back to work, or, more accurately, bringing American men back to work.
But in 1938, Joseph Catherine, the president of the National Association of Realtors (NAR) at the time, pursued an unprecedented solution. Impressed by the California Real Estate Association’s newly incorporated Women’s Division, Catherine realized the potential of women in real estate and encouraged the formation of the Women’s Council of Realtors (WCR). Thirty-seven ambitious women represented nine states at the NAR’s Annual Convention that year, and despite the local board’s resistance to recognize women in real estate, a positive vote resulted in the formation of a Women’s Division and the inception of WCR.
Today, with more than 260 chapters and 14,000 members, the WCR is the 17th-largest U.S. women’s professional organization, boasting one of the most successful communication networks in NAR’s family.
The goal of the WCR is not only to be the premier organization for individual achievement, but also to generate the information, higher education and business contacts necessary for Realtors to develop relevant skills and professional credibility in a changing business environment. The WCR provides women in real estate with a productive environment where they can form, nurture and maximize relationships, from bottom-line business transactions to ongoing mentoring for career development.
“We are a family of real estate professionals, unique in our focus both on business and personal development,” says WCR’s Florida State Chapter Treasurer Ana Maria Roque. “We believe that success in business today requires positive, productive relationships. Through participation in WCR, we encounter a support network, ready and willing to help us achieve our individual potential for success.”
“We operate based on a shared value system of integrity, consistency, creativity, compassion and a commitment to excellence and continued development,” adds WCR’s Miami-Dade County Chapter President Norka Diaz. “We believe that these are the skills and qualities that will advance the real estate profession.”
WCR constantly encourages its members to dedicate themselves to the highest level of service for the public and the real estate industry by providing a community of real estate professionals that works together to create new business opportunities, develop ample skills for the future and maximize individual potential for success.
“I chose to become a member of WCR because I admire the enthusiasm of the organization as a whole,” says CEO of the Realtor Association of Miami-Dade County, Martha Bullman. “The members are devoted to high-quality education and encourage one another to continue to move forward with technology and new ideas. There is an excellent spirit of volunteerism, cooperation and networking that remains active through the annual change of officers.”
To become a member of WCR, one must either be a Realtor or associate in the United States, its insular possessions or the Common-wealth of Puerto Rico; a professional in an affiliated field, such as mortgage or appraisal, who holds affiliate membership in a Realtor organization; or an executive member of a Realtor organization. Once a Realtor is accepted into WCR, she is positioned to explore all of the educational opportunities available through the organization. WCR’s National Referral Roster, for instance, is a tool available for active members, allowing them to refer one another throughout the United States based on respective qualifications.
“It behooves all of us to ‘beef up’ our credentials so we’ll be chosen to handle the transferring client,” says WCR Florida State Chapter President, Susanna Madden. “Because this organization puts so much emphasis on advanced education, our members are among the best and most polished the profession has to offer.”
Through the decades, WCR’s membership growth has reflected the increasing number of women who pursue careers in real estate. With more than 3,000 members and 38 subchapters, the Florida Chapter is the largest WCR chapter in the nation.
“I believe that because Florida has such a delicious blend of ‘transplants’ from all over the United States and many foreign countries, we get the most dynamic people from all walks of life in our WCR chapters,” says Madden. “No matter what you do in any facet of life, enthusiasm sells. And we do have enthusiastic, self-motivated members in Florida WCR chapters.”
This January, the North and South chapters of WCR merged into a single chapter, the Miami-Dade Chapter, which currently encompasses all of Miami-Dade County. Using the combined knowledge from the leaders of both organizations, this union has achieved a level of growth unprecedented in WCR to this point. The members of the local chapter attend the monthly business programs, take advantage of the learning opportunities the chapter offers them and network with other members, affiliates and guests at the different events. The governing board of the local chapter conducts the business of the chapter, organizes the events and recruits and maintains the membership. These responsibilities are distributed among the governing board, which is comprised of the president, the president-elect, the VP of membership, the secretary and the treasurer.
Throughout the year, WCR will continue to introduce educational programs created especially for Realtors and contributing to the enhancement of their professional skills.
“Our belief is to provide our members with the finest programs and the tools of the trade by being in the forefront as a progressive business model,” says Diaz. “We believe that to move forward in the marketplace, we have to adjust and educate ourselves with the latest in technology, educate ourselves with the latest market trends and always look for ways to expand our individual goals.”
WCR will offer a course for members on PowerPoint listing presentations and the tablet PC, complying with the notion upheld by WCR that Realtors need to be on the forefront of technology. Furthermore, in May, the Miami-Dade Chapter will put on its first trade show designed especially for the real estate industry professionals.
“We believe that participation increases membership value,” says Diaz. “We believe that WCR members who get involved build stronger relationships and gain information, new skills and ideas by applying what is learned. Participation is the opportunity to contribute to change and to be changed personally and professionally.”
WCR has been piloting change in the real estate industry for decades now. In 1984, WCR established the Leadership Training Graduate designation. Courses covering communication, personal power, group dynamics, meeting management, leadership, public speaking and technology were part of the program, which fostered leadership and professionalism in career and personal life. In 1989, WCR established the Referral & Relocation Certification and, in 1994, the RRC was incorporated into the LTG program. The year 1998 saw the creation of the annual WCR Leadership Academy, which in its very first year won the prestigious Leadership Development Trophy in Chapter Relations from the American Society of Association Executives. The two-day academy continues to provide over 200 local chapter presidents-elect with in-depth chapter management training so they are equipped to lead their chapters with confidence.
“Our Realtor professional peers recognize the value of WCR,” says Madden. “They know we train and inspire leaders, and we know how to get referral business. Other organizations try to ‘steal’ our members to serve in leadership positions for them, because they know if they’re WCR-trained, they’ll have a winner. I would say that shows WCR has revolutionized the industry.”
WCR publishes Connections and the Referral Roster. Connections is particularly unique in that it offers articles on business and personal growth topics specifically targeted to real estate professionals, especially women. The Referral Roster is a critical resource for WCR members that lists the entire membership and provides links for referrals. WCR’s Web site, launched in 1996, is an additional referral tool with daily updates to all member records and over 20,000 active hotlinks to members’ e-mail addresses and Web sites.
At the 2003 National Conference in San Francisco, WCR launched the Performance Management Network Designation. It’s a next-generation Realtor designation planned from the ground up to bring WCR members the real-world skills that will keep their business in the forefront and on top of today’s dynamic real estate market. The Performance Management Network’s suite of professional performance training courses is taught by recognized experts who dig deep into the hot topics that are driving the marketplace and shaping the industry.
The first course in the new curriculum, Effective Negotiating for Real Estate Professionals, premiered at the National Conference with record-breaking turn out. With 330 students, it was the most highly attended initial offering of any WCR course to date.
“A true professional must never stop learning, stay current and adapt to the changes,” says Roque. “If you don’t do it, you are not servicing the public to the best of your capacities.”
Today, customers are savvier and more demanding; there’s more information, but less time to process it; and the competition is fiercer and faster than ever. With that in mind, WCR promotes a steadfast commitment to ongoing education and professional excellence through its network of strong, active chapters and powerful business connections.
In addition, WCR empowers its members to embrace and celebrate diversity in the marketplace. “We believe the membership experience is enriched through the celebration and encouragement of our differences in background, experience, perspective and opinion,” says Diaz. “At the same time, the strength of the organization lies in what unites us all: our shared values.”
Its impressive 60-year trajectory of accomplishments has cemented the WCR a strong, viable organization with the human and
financial resources and flexible structure needed to take advantage of opportunities in a changing environment.
“Our mission statement still gives me goose bumps,” admits Madden. “How could any Realtor who is serious about the profession not want to be part of an organization with a mission statement as succinct, bold and dynamic as [ours]?”