Commentary: The Historic White House United State of Women Summit

Editorial Note: The following is a commentary written by Desiree Patno, CEO of the National Association of Women in Real Estate Businesses (NAWRB), after attending the first White House summit on The United State of Women last month in Washington, D.C.

The White House United State of Women Summit was an incredible high and energizer for all the work we have been doing here at NAWRB and for me personally! Jordan Brooks from the White House Council on Women’s and Girls did an incredible job in such a short time, pulling together over 100 speakers and 5,000 women in one venue for women’s equality centered on six pillar topics. To see women come from several different industries with the same vision and desires was such an incredibly exhilarating feeling. Personally, I know there are several of us still riding the high several days and even weeks after the summit.

Coming from an intense business model—from selling properties for corporate clients to running a trade organization—creating a new lane has been quite the challenge. Bucking the normal business model for women and women-owned businesses in the housing ecosystem, the White House Council on Women and Girls Summit rejuvenated and energized NAWRB by raising the public’s awareness and showing the federal government’s commitment to women.

Currently, the federal government doesn’t internally track women-owned businesses, but there are third parties who have been tracking these businesses through various channels. We at NAWRB are working to increase diverse spend and improve the inclusion of women in the housing ecosystem. It has been no easy feat these past seven years and we are eternally grateful to the White House Council on Women and Girls, which was formed the same year as NAWRB.

Recently, there have been major corporations and government agencies in attendance at a couple women’s conferences. The overwhelming sentiment among these entities has been, how can I find the women-owned businesses to add to my bottom-line diverse spend? Not all companies have the same corporate social responsibility, yet several in attendance have large checkbooks looking for women-owned businesses. Major competitors are working together to help each other in diverse spend without compromising their trade secrets. If you had told me five years ago I’d have competitors together on either side of me, truly supporting one another, I wouldn’t have thought it possible.

As an industry that is evolving with incredible growth, oversight and global challenges, we are so blessed to see the needle moving in the right direction, however slightly.

NAWRB recently created the Women’s Global Resource Center for women working in the housing ecosystem from government and trade associations to business owners. By creating a proactive tracking system, in a space where time is of the essence, we are giving back to our community to ensure the growth of women at all levels of employment and the diverse spend of women-owned businesses. It is essential to bring in fresh blood, raise the awareness of opportunities and educate both sides of the spectrum through the many platforms of communication and support.

From large companies with hundreds of millions of dollars in yearly gross revenue to small companies comprising the 91 percent of women-owned businesses employing no one other than the owner, the utilization of women-owned business classification is drastically limited. There are entities really looking for women-owned businesses to certify within their guidelines; there is demand. But how do we find the additional 10 million or more women-owned businesses that are not part of a depository?

You can’t certify or educate an empty cloud.  Opportunities will be lost and your bottom-line profits will be hurt by not finding these women-owned businesses. We need to find the needles in the haystack and grow the women’s culture. As I have stated before, “Women don’t have geographical roots like their diverse counterparts.” Instead of creating a new group, we need to come together, join forces and make a difference! Find out how you can be a part of this great women’s initiative from being a woman to the client looking for women’s diverse spend.

Thank you to the White House Council on Women and Girls for making this a reality and to all the women and men working for gender equality. NAWRB salutes you!

To learn more about NAWRB, visit www.nawrb.org.