Many of us can relate to moments in our personal journeys, when there was a fork in the road of our careers. For me, that moment was in March of 2018. Then a middle school teacher, I made the tough decision to stand up for a student and in doing so, I gave up my career in education.
Who would have thought the day after my last day as an educator, I would find myself in a familiar situation — seated on a bench in front of my Brooklyn apartment making small talk and bonding with a handful of passersby over our neighborhood’s local haunts. It just so happened these new acquaintances were considering moving to an apartment on the block and invited me along.
As soon as I walked into their prospective home, I commented on the gorgeous wood beams, the exposed brick, and the reasonable rent. By the time we were all leaving, the agent assured the future tenants that I wasn’t a hired plant to get the deal done and asked if I ever considered a career in real estate. Shortly thereafter, I headed into what would soon be a thrilling, eye-opening real estate journey.
I became immersed in a completely new industry. It was intoxicating — making transactions, building a business, and forming a team. It was, at least, what I thought my new career journey would be. Calling on building owners, property managers, and prospective tenants, day and night, seemed like a movie on how to succeed in business while really really trying.
Over the course of the next two years and with two brokerages, more often than not, I found myself sitting in front of men who were the decision-makers, the negotiators, landlords, property managers, and… well you get the picture. They were the ones justifying my worth on whether or not I would get the deal closed or even get the chance to pitch a deal. Half of the time, meeting with these property owners meant wondering if they actually respected me. I found that I was trying to survive in a male dominated world, exchanging polite laughs for commissions and listings. Eventually these kinds of experiences began to pile onto a deep feeling of inequity.
At my last brokerage in Williamsburg, I closed five rental deals in my first 30 days. Being new to the company and navigating new systems, I felt excited about my prospects. My manager even commented on my celebratory social media post and said, “You say what you mean and mean what you say. Your positive attitude, willingness to learn and help others is admirable. Congratulations, Jaclyn. The first of many achievements for sure!”
These words affirmed my capabilities and I was confident that this would be the first of many celebrations. But, I quickly learned that the “boys club” wasn’t going to be admitting me anytime soon. Regardless of my hustle, dedication and delivery, leads and listings that were previously directed to me, were handed off to a male co-worker, instead.
When I challenged the switchover, my manager responded, “He has a family to support” or would require me to share my commission with an agent who had a loose tangential history with the deal. It became clear that unwritten rules and unspoken common practices exist to benefit those in his inner circle, and that’s where I drew the line.
In December 2019, I took a leap of faith and interviewed for a fully female-led Out-of-Home Advertisement Real Estate Team at Overall Murals — a hand paint advertising company located in Brooklyn. I am very proud to say that I did not have to leave real estate to find the right path for me and in January 2020, I was officially invited to be a part of Overall Murals’ Real Estate Team.
It has been an honor working alongside female leaders like Angel Saemai, co-owner of Overall Murals, and Director of Real Estate West Coast, Ashley Bunnett, an industry veteran. Together we make up a squad that focuses on encouragement, partnership, and growth and in celebration of Women’s History Month, I want to use this space to celebrate us and the community we’ve built here at Overall Murals.
I can’t convey enough what a difference it has been to have female mentors as colleagues. It is not lost on me that we are still very much an anomaly in an industry dominated by men, but it goes without saying we are better together. Our shared experiences make us a unique force in a predominantly male industry. Regardless of our respective markets or gender identity, and with great tenacity, we are always working collaboratively towards one goal, and that is the success of Overall Murals.