I stepped off the elevator at the J. Parker last Thursday with my heart beating out of my chest. I was there to participate on a panel of realtors — but not just any group of realtors. This panel was entirely female, and the event was dedicated to the empowerment of women in my industry. I was so honored to participate, but not surprisingly, so nervous, too.
The venue itself was breathtaking. We were in a bubble in the sky, marveling at the city and lake down below. Realtors, lenders and attorneys milled about the space, sipping wine (at 3pm!) and sampling snacks from Hotel Lincoln. I did my best to smile and chat, but on the inside, I was pretty much freaking out. I prayed and prayed and prayed.
Some time later, it was time for the panelists to take their seats. I sat in-between my friend (and WCR roomie) Judy and an industry MVP named Millie. Brooke, another top producer, sat on the other end. I couldn’t believe I was up there with such talented women. Women who’ve sold tens of millions in real estate. Women who have families. Women who’ve made names for themselves. And then, me.
As Emily, our sweet and eloquent moderator, asked questions, I stared out into the crowd. Whenever I felt myself get uncomfortably nervous, I would look at my mom. She was front row, reassuring me with a knowing look that I would indeed get through this (and maybe even have fun!). My mom is my best friend. It meant the world to me that she was there, and reminded me of last spring when my dad came to watch me speak at the Chicago Association of Realtors. I may not live with them anymore, but I still need them all the time.
Hours later, I was in pajamas at home, reflecting on the afternoon. It was completely surreal to see a room packed full of women — not a suit in sight! The Chicago real estate industry is a tough one. It’s competitive, cut-throat, and sometimes, I feel like giving up the race. But this event reminded me just how strong women can be. I couldn’t help but admire my fellow panelists who spoke about their knowledge and experience, but further, there were so many guests I talked to who were trying to balance family life with work life. I’m not quite there yet, but I know I will be some day. It was an inspiration to learn about how they make it happen.