I’ve never really experienced Washington, D.C. aside from a family vacation there about 20 years ago, but that all changed when I was invited to attend the White House Demo Day — where innovators around the country pitched their ideas to none other than President Barack Obama.
The event was hosted by Megan Smith, chief technology officer for the United States, as part of the SocialMedia.org contingent of digital marketers from some of the world’s largest companies. I was invited to participate in this event to represent Coldwell Banker Real Estate, and obviously when you are invited to a meeting at the White House, you can’t help but be excited.
Lindsay Listanski from Coldwell Banker Real Estate at the White House
Before we got down to business, I took the opportunity to take a selfie with a picture of Obama in a White House meeting room so that I could report back to family and friends that I did, indeed, get a selfie with the president. As I sat there soaking in every second of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, I decided within about 20 minutes that this day had already solidified its spot on my list of top 10 life experiences.
Smith entered the room accompanied by a diverse group of business thinkers who she and Obama invited to showcase their startups and shed light on how important the entrepreneurial spirit is to the future of America.
In her opening remarks, Smith focused on the need to welcome more women and ethnic groups into the entrepreneurial ecosystem. She cited several jarring statistics:
- Just 3 percent of America’s venture capital-backed startups are led by women; less than 1 percent are led by African-Americans.
- Four percent of U.S.-based venture capital investors are women.
- Of 300 companies surveyed in a recent case study, those with a woman leader performed 63 percent better than all-male teams.
Wow, so inclusivity is not only the fair thing to do — it is also the most profitable.
As we listened to the entrepreneurs share their achievements, it was astounding how strong their perseverance and desire to overcome obstacles were. They included Albrey Brown, who created a coding boot camp for African-Americans, and two women from online job board The Muse who revolutionized how millennials go about their job search.
But as I sat there, I realized that one industry was completely missing from the conversation: real estate. Why? Aren’t real estate professionals the ultimate entrepreneurs? Aren’t we the champions of perseverance? We’re no different than the founders of The Muse, who were rejected 148 times before they received funding for their idea. While we don’t usually deal with angel investors or venture capitalists, I think you will all agree the daily grind we face from buyers and sellers is an equal — if not tougher — challenge.
Those in real estate are the backbone of America. We shouldn’t be ignored when it comes to talking about entrepreneurial leadership.
The truth is, we are a shining beacon of how to do it right. Our gender make-up is exactly what Smith is looking for. Women make up 58 percent of our workforce. And knowing how my brand Coldwell Banker showcases diversity support with partnerships with the Asian Real Estate Association of America, the National Association of Gay and Lesbian Real Estate Professionals, and the Young Professionals Network, I left our White House Demo day with a sense of extreme pride to know that I am working in an industry that is keeping the American Dream of entrepreneurship alive.
Lindsay Listanski is the senior manager of media engagement for Coldwell Banker Real Estate.
Thank you to Megan Smith for this incredible invitation, and to socialmedia.org for allowing Coldwell Banker Real Estate to have a seat at the table.