On a Mission: The motivated members of the Women’s Council of Realtors

When the National Association of Realtors (NAR), was founded in 1908, its membership was composed entirely of men. The association’s purpose at the time was “to unite the real estate men of America.” While there were a number of successful women in real estate sales, their participation on local real estate boards and in the national association remained in the minority for several decades.

Through the efforts of male members who, having observed how well women worked with clients and performed the duties of a real estate agent, a movement evolved to support leadership amongst women in real estate. These men believed having women on boards and in associations would only strengthen and improve the organization – but it was not an idea readily accepted by all members at the time.

In 1924 – four years after The 19th Amendment granting women the right to vote was ratified – the California Real Estate Association created the first women’s division. Fourteen years later, in 1938, the national association officially formed its women’s division, modeling it after California’s. Today this group is known as the Women’s Council of Realtors (WCR) and it is the 12th largest women’s professional organization in the country.

Northern Michigan’s own chapter of WCR came along in 1996. It operated for a few years, before dissolving in the early 2000s. In 2008, local Realtors Sue Kelly and Connie Rountree helped it rise again.

“At the time of its resurgence, the Realtor community was becoming increasingly fractured,” recalled Kelly. “The local Realtor association had eliminated home tours, individual brokers had eliminated home tours and agents with other brokerages were losing connections because of infrequent networking. The WCR brought the personal relationship network back into the equation.”

WCR’s mission, both at the local level and nationally, is to advance women as professionals and leaders in business, the industry and the communities they serve. Much of this revolves around the networking and educational opportunities that WCR presents to its members.

Each month, the Northern Michigan chapter conducts a luncheon, bringing speakers in on topics such as Traverse City Master Plan, fighting fraud, the area’s economic outlook and ongoing information on legislation changes that affect the real estate industry and its customers.

Firm believers in the power of relationships, they also conduct a weekly home tour. Each Wednesday morning, members gather at the Traverse Area Association of Realtors office and share information on new listings and clients’ needs. From there, they set out and tour 5-10 homes currently listed by a WCR member.

Not Just for Women
Despite being a women’s professional organization, it’s not ‘ladies only’ in WCR. Nationally, 10 percent of NAR’s members are male, while locally, that percentage is 35 percent. Why? Because to the members, Realtors of every sort depend on one another for their integrity and desire to represent their clients to the very best of their ability.

“We believe if we help each other raise their service professionalism and ethics, our entire industry, and therefore our clients, will experience much greater success, both on an individual level as well as the industry here in northern Michigan,” said Kelly.

“Rather than worrying about the individual brokerages that are more skewed to a competitive slant. WCR is focused on the professionalism in the industry and the ethics of the individual in the network. We as competing individuals still need to depend on our competitors for their integrity and desire to represent their clients to the very best of their ability,” she added.

Size-wise, the northern Michigan network is the largest of the 10 WCR networks within Michigan with 131 Realtor members, both male and female, and 74 affiliate members. This ranking is no small feat, as Michigan has the fourth highest number of WCR members in the United States.

“We have such motivated professionals that are eager to be successful not only in their business but also in their community,” said Erika Korndorfer, Realtor and current president of the local WCR network.

Causes, Education
Part of WCR’s creed is service to the community. Through the Bras for a Cause event, WCR has donated well over $150,000 to local breast care assistance and research centers, according to Korndorfer. This year’s event is Oct. 13. WCR also selects a different charity every year to support during the holidays. Last year’s recipient was Single MOMM, and WCR’s end-of-year donation reportedly helped over 600 families.

“You will find many members volunteering in our community, sitting on township boards, volunteering at the cancer center every week, the (Third Level) Crisis Center, Single MOMM, etc. We are a very giving group of individuals,” said Korndorfer.

Looking ahead, Korndorfer’s goal for the group is to offer even more educational opportunities for local members.

“Next is getting our members to take advantage of all the powerful education they can get outside of Traverse City,” she said. “WCR provides scholarships for Realtor members looking to advance their knowledge in the industry by traveling and attending state meetings and state conferences.”

To learn more about becoming a Realtor or affiliate member of Northern Michigan Women’s Council of Realtors, go to wcrnorthernmichigan.wildapricot.org.