Women are taking on leadership positions at a steadier pace than ever before, according to the Pew Research Center. The statistics point to growth across several segments—state government, Fortune 500 companies and universities—but where does that leave the real estate industry?
Majority female leadership in real estate is becoming more commonplace, as exemplified by a recent leadership restructuring at Title Alliance, a family of full-service title insurance and escrow agencies. Over the last few months, Lindsay Smith, Sharon Lontoc and Maria Deligiorgis have assumed their respective positions as chief strategy officer, chief human resources officer, and general counsel and compliance officer, rounding out a majority female C-Suite that already included Lillian ReDavid in the position of chief financial officer.
“The passion and energy from the C-Suite is integral to Title Alliance’s expansive growth,” said Jim Campbell, CEO, in a statement. “It’s inspiring to see women from different career paths pushing Title Alliance forward with strategic mindsets and unique approaches.”
Here, Lontoc, Deligiorgis and Smith tell RISMedia why advancing women within the industry is so important, and how other real estate professionals can find success in leadership roles.
Chief Human Resources Officer
A graduate of Christopher Newport University and Old Dominion University, Lontoc has held positions including vice president of Employee Relations and director of Human Resources for a top financial services firm. As chief human resources officer at Title Aliance, Lontoc is responsible for developing and executing the human resource strategy and innovative operating models in support of the overall business plan and strategic direction of Title Alliance, with a focus on succession planning, talent management and training and development.
General Counsel and Compliance Officer
A graduate of American University Washington School of Law and the University of Iowa, Deligiorgis has spent her entire career in the real estate and title insurance industries working with small and large companies. Deligiorgis focuses on overseeing the business and legal practices of Title Alliance and all its entities, in all operations and in all states. Deligiorgis also supervises and directs underwriting, compliance reports and best practices, along with overseeing SOC 1 and SOC 2 reporting and other compliance endeavors.
Chief Strategy Officer
A graduate of LaSalle University, Smith joined Title Alliance in 2005 and has held multiple roles throughout her tenure with the company, ranging from project manager to director of Sales and Marketing. As chief strategy officer, Smith is responsible for assisting Title Alliance’s CEO, Campbell, in developing, communicating and executing both corporate and JV strategic initiatives as the company continues to move forward with a significant growth trajectory.
Can you talk about the gender gap in leadership roles and how it may be bridged?
Sharon Lontoc: One of my jobs as CHRO is to promote work and learning environments that encourage and support diversity. Merit is the foundation of hires and promotions, but it’s also important to provide the tools and opportunities to support everyone’s career goals and aspirations within our company as well as the industry. Not only can my work in the company and industry support other women in the field, but hopefully serve as a source of inspiration and empowerment.
Maria Deligiorgis: Top executive women can continue to send a strong message that diversity and inclusion are a strategic priority for their company and for the industry. A public presence for women leaders and members of the C-Suite exemplifies a corporate and industry mindset and position of an organization’s commitment to promoting cultural change. To help eliminate continued underrepresentation of women in the C-Suite, implementation of diversity and inclusion initiatives will be a start, but the imagination of top executive women in our industry will also be needed to engage in open, in-depth conversations and stories about experiences and challenges with key men.
My leadership experience is intentional in setting clear expectations enterprise-wide of all managers, mentors and sponsors, and our company is committed to providing the tools to support women effectively. Leadership by top women executives is also a transfer of belief—to inspire all women professionals.
Lindsay Smith: Truthfully, I never looked at it that way. In our company, over 90 percent of our employees are female, so there wasn’t a gender battle to be fought. To that point, I always believed that regardless of gender, the very best person for the job should have it to bring the most value to the organization. I think as a leader you need to focus of having integrity in everything that you do; representing the company’s brand and values; and on uplifting, motivating and encouraging in a positive way those around you.
What is your strategy for continued business growth and what motivates you?
SL: I am very fortunate to be surrounded by incredibly smart, strategic and dynamic colleagues at Title Alliance. They are empowering and encouraging, as well as supportive of each other’s pursuits. Each of them set the bar so high, it shows me that we can have it all.
MD: Certainly, profit and loss accountability and results are motivating, as is skill development. Every handful of years, we speak about the transformation of our industry, and as a strategist and visionary, I want to help toward the development of the next generation of industry professionals—both women and men.
LS: Personally, my “why” is and has always been to make a difference. In our business, we are fortunate enough to be able to form partnerships in states across the country with real estate agents. Through those partnerships, we provide the agents with opportunities to compliantly grow their horizontal income stream through equity. We are able to impact employees in these areas by providing them with a different way of doing business and to give them a platform to expand their worlds—personally and professionally—holding true to our mission. Lastly, as an ESOP company, the strategies set forth and growth achieved impacts every single employee in our family of companies through the ESOP Growth. Continuing to push for excellence and opportunity, for myself and those around me, allows for fulfillment of my “why” at a very high level.
What would you say to other females looking to advance to a leadership position in real estate?
SL: As much as it might sound like a cliché, I think the main thing is to reinforce that there is nothing out of reach. Women and girls can be anything, and we are not limited by our gender. Explore any opportunity, including those in real estate or title, and find what truly interests and inspires you.
MD: While it is aspirational to believe that meritocracy is the determiner of criteria for leadership roles, there are multiple paths to top executive leadership positions, and women could focus their efforts on roles that lead to those paths. Reach out to women leaders and start a conversation.
LS: Be certain that you work for a company that demonstrates the willingness to empower and to grow their employees. Consistently hold yourself (and others) to high standards. Focus on how you can make a difference to impact others. Stay out of drama and don’t ever tear people down. Finally, the best leaders are anything but self-serving. When you demonstrate how what you bring to the table impacts the company, the employees and the clients in a positive way consistently through measurable success and track records, you will have the greatest level of personal and professional satisfaction. And when you’re satisfied in your job, amazing things happen.