No, you’re not imagining it. There’s been a clear shift in mindset in this industry—particularly among women in real estate—over the past few years. And it was on full display at Align 2023, the third annual Empowering Women in Real Estate conference. Hosted by founder and CEO Karen W. Cooper, the event featured many amazing women sharing their insights and success secrets. 

The overarching themes at this year’s conference centered around personality marketing, making connections through relatable storytelling, and developing an empowering mindset to put it all in motion. I’ll get into the insights around each of these topics below, but first, let’s dig into that mindset shift. 

The Rise of Women in Real Estate

A large circle of women of varying ages all putting their hands together in the center of the circle.

It’s not that there are more women in real estate than ever—women have made up the majority of agents for decades. What is different is the shift in mindset of women in the real estate industry. 

I recently watched this video of Barbara Corcoran on her Facebook page where she explains how she found success. She talks about undoing the negative thoughts she had around her own abilities and how long it took to correct the damaging effects of those negative thoughts. What’s more incredible is that she still fights those feelings today.

More and more women are finding their own superpowers in a world that is slowly becoming more accepting of women in higher ranks professionally, politically, and even financially. That’s why I really appreciated the time spent at this conference showing women, who may be struggling with their own negative self-images, how to battle their own demons to become better versions of themselves. This conference was all about empowerment. 

I took away a lot of little nuggets from this conference, especially around mindset and choosing a niche. Below, I share some of the best bits from some of the amazing speakers.

Owning Your Brand & Being Authentic

Woman with long blonde hair whipping it around, wearing funny sunglasses and headphones around her neck.

The speakers at the Align conference—including Christina Daves, Lana Rodriguez, Heather Cook, and Michele Bellisari—all found success in some way, discovering their potential through social media, video, or strategic media attention. What they shared with attendees wasn’t just their stories—it was an invitation to dream and a testament to what’s possible for everyone in the real estate business.

The Power of Personality Marketing

Karen W. Cooper, the emcee for the conference, kicked things off with some encouraging words that set the tone for the entire event. One theme that permeated through was the power of personality marketing. In pre-pandemic days, Instagram and other platforms overflowed with beautiful, perfectly curated images and videos. Each profile was basically a highlight reel from the best of everyone’s lives. 

But things shifted dramatically while the world was on lockdown. Seemingly perfect ideals became unsustainable as everyone was pushed to their breaking point. Overnight, the Instagram aesthetic transformed. Polished, picture-perfect posts gave way to raw, unfiltered content. And everyone responded—this felt more right, more relatable

Authenticity Reigns Supreme

The authenticity born from our collective fears and anxieties during the pandemic has lingered and evolved. Today, authenticity is not just a trend; it’s a requirement in digital marketing. As Karen so aptly pointed out, “Pretending to be someone you’re not just because it worked great for someone else is not a recipe for success for you. And vice versa.” For real estate agents who use that mindset to their advantage, it can be a game-changer. It’s time to seize and own your brand—a brand that is authentically you.

Gone are the days of excuses about not having the right equipment, perfect lighting, or ideal conditions. The power of relatable content has washed that away. Agents who embrace authenticity and relatability demonstrate that it’s not about perfection—it’s about being real.

“Imagine a business where clients seek you out because they align with who you are authentically. You are the magic.”

Karen Cooper headshot

Karen W. Cooper, Founder & CEO, Empowering Women in Real Estate

Embracing Your True Self

In today’s digital world, real estate agents have to get out of their own way. They need to create content that goes beyond their professional identities and that shows the human beings they are. Your audience craves connection, not just with the real estate professional you are, but with the human behind the profession.

To stand out in this evolving landscape, you must be willing to show your authentic self, ugly crying and all. It’s not just about the properties you list—it’s about the stories you tell and the connections you make. You need to be more than a real estate agent: Be a relatable, authentic human being who just happens to sell houses.

Nailing Your Niche

Image of a two-story, colonial-style historic home with lots of trees and greenery around it, fenced off with a brick and iron wall and iron gate.

Ever feel like you’re drowning in a tsunami of ads? Well, guess what: You’re not alone. As highlighted in Forbes, a recent study found that, in our overstimulated digital world, we’re blasted with 4,000 to 10,000 ads daily. Blink, and they’re gone. 

We’ve mastered the art of swiping past the noise. These days, our attention spans are shorter than a TikTok video. Unless something pops out, it’s just more digital wallpaper. So, how do you avoid getting lost in the ad abyss? Niche specialization, of course.

Here’s the deal: Instead of casting a wide net, you zoom in on a specific real estate niche. Think of it like this—Nike doesn’t chase after everyone’s feet. They target athletes, the fitness-minded, and anyone striving for physical excellence. Apple isn’t just about tech—they focus on creatives, innovators, and design aficionados. Do one thing, and do it better than anyone else.

Your clients don’t want a one-size-fits-all solution. They want someone who gets them, speaks their language, and provides tailor-made solutions. You’re not just a real estate agent anymore—you’re the pro in your chosen specialized field.

If you need some help with your niche branding, Coffee & Contracts has dozens of templates, done-for-you marketing tools, and even training and support to make sure you get the most out of your efforts.

Get Niche Branding Templates From Coffee & Contracts

Identifying a Sustainable Business Model

Woman holding her hands towards the sky while several birds fly overhead.

Michele Bellisari offered a lot of practical advice on how to choose the right niche for your real estate business. In fact, she offered a few options to consider: 

  • Probate
  • Seniors
  • Divorce
  • Empty nesters
  • Relocation
  • Historic homes
  • Short-term rental properties
  • Amenity properties
  • Green homes
  • Location-specific properties

All of these niches have something in common: They’re focused on listings. There’s a class for real estate agents (I’ve taken it at least twice) called “If You Can’t List, You Can’t Last.” And truthfully, I feel that statement in my bones. Buyer agents have the hardest time sustaining business in real estate. It’s way too transactional. That’s why Michele urges everyone to focus on niches that generate listings, not just buyers. 

Her best advice is to stop talking about what you want to do and just start doing. Choose a niche that makes sense to you—who do you want to serve? And be open to niches that may not be typical. There is a Realtor in my local area, Jackie Youngblood, who married her real estate profession and her nudist lifestyle. Her niche is buyers and sellers in Pasco County, just outside of Tampa, considered by many to be the nudist capital of the U.S. She was actually featured on TLC with her own show, “Buying Naked.” Those who are unique stand out in a crowded market. 

“I have very strong faith. And I have hope. I have hope in people and I have faith in what I can do.” — Michele Bellisari

Michele Bellisari headshot

Michele Bellisari, FL Real Estate Broker, REAL

But however you choose to do it, pick a lane and drive. Don’t wait to pivot. Do it now and figure it out as you go. Believe in your ability to create your own destiny. As New York Times bestselling author Ruth Soukup’s book teaches, “Do it scared.” We all deal with our own varieties of self-doubt. The key is to not let it paralyze you and keep you from reaching your fullest potential. 

Crushing Self-doubt

Woman with her hair pulled back in a small bun, wielding a sword in an attack stance

This is where things get tricky. Most women I know, in real estate and out, have some kind of stifling self-doubt or imposter syndrome that probably stems from some deep-seated belief system from childhood. (Yes, me included.) 

But many of the speakers at Align 2023 shared their journeys and insight into how they overcame self-doubt, did it anyway, and found their voice through it all. Agent and social media expert Jamie Combs shared how she failed her real estate exam twice. She shared her heartbreaks and eventually her triumph as she documented her journey to a new life.

“You are your biggest critic and your biggest influencer. Stay consistent and show up as you, every day.”

Jamie Combs headshot

Jamie Combs, Social Media Expert

Most women have issues with their personal appearance. And the most innovative advice I heard during the conference was a simple method to help get past self-consciousness from panelist and YouTube expert Caryn Gardiner: Wear clothes that meet you where you are and make you feel comfortable and confident. 

That may seem like conventional wisdom, but you’d be surprised how often I’ve heard things more aligned with dress like the size you want to be. Or don’t dress for your age—dress for the age you feel like you are. I don’t know about you, but that advice never made me feel good in my clothes or about my appearance. And as we age, those misinformed statements only make things worse. 

Wear clothes that meet you where you are and make you feel comfortable and confident. Now that makes sense. Make yourself look and feel good by buying clothes that cover the things you want to cover and flatter you in the places that make you feel good about yourself. The right outfit can be your secret weapon, boosting your confidence like nothing else. It’s not about dressing to impress; it’s about dressing to empower.

Leveraging Social Media for Connection

Woman looking at a post on social media on her phone.

As I noted above, the pandemic shook up our lives, and suddenly we no longer wanted to see flawless pics on Instagram—we all wanted substance. We wanted to know we weren’t alone.  

Heather Cook kicked off her Align 2023 session with an intense story about an encounter with her first husband. It was raw, unfiltered, and deeply moving, and it had the entire room hanging on her every word. Why? Because authenticity is the secret weapon to supercharging audience engagement.

“If you’re relying on confidence from people who don’t believe in you, you’ll never go further than they say you can go.”

Heather Cook headshot

Heather Cook, NC Real Estate Agent, CLT Real Estate Team

The game has changed, and now it’s all about building connections. And the best way to do that is to share your unique, unfiltered stories. Your tribe is waiting for something to grab onto that will resonate with them. They’re after the unfiltered, authentic, beautiful messy reality that is your life. So, be prepared to get a little uncomfortable because it will feel awkward at first. In a world where artificial intelligence is emerging at a rapid pace, your messy humanity will be what sets you apart.

But understand this: Before the world believes in you, you’ve got to believe in yourself. Seeking validation is old news. Own your story, walk your path, and be the hero of your unique journey.

Your Take

I’m the first to admit that a lot of time I go to conferences and think, “This is just a bunch of ‘rah, rah’ that isn’t necessary.” (Yes, that’s me!) But sometimes, when I attend a conference, I’m unexpectedly pulled in by one person’s story. What I’ve learned through the years is that if I go to a conference and take away one solid nugget of knowledge from one speaker or one-on-one encounter, the conference was 100% worth whatever amount of money I paid to attend. 

Then again, the energy you get from attending a conference in person has its own rewards. I grew to really appreciate the “rah, rah” parts so much during the pandemic and I no longer overlook its importance in my continued growth. I’ve come to love it and embrace it. I wish I had attended this conference live in person. I bet the energy with these amazing women was off the charts.

Did you attend this conference? What were your biggest takeaways? What are your thoughts on women in real estate and their mindset shifts? Are you dealing with any of these issues yourself? Share your stories in the comment section. I can’t wait to read them.