It was a great privilege to judge the recent Real Estate Business (REB) Women in Real Estate Awards again, and here I share insights into four exceptional women who were nominated as industry leaders. 

What stood out for me in all four women was their authenticity and passion as they forged ahead in their careers while also helping those around them.

Meet Leanne Pilkington

Leanne Pilkington has been a force of nature in our industry for some time and I expect you’re already familiar with her various industry roles and passions. As co-owner and CEO of Laing+Simmons Corporation, a 40+ office real estate network in Sydney, Leanne is a true powerhouse in the property industry, and always finds time to lift other women up.

Leanne is the President of the Real Estate Institute of NSW (REINSW) and in 2018 she established a “Women on Boards” event, resulting in more females than ever nominating themselves for the Board. As of mid-2021, REINSW is one woman away from 50/50 representation, something that has never before been achieved. Other female directors include Linda Rudd of Realside Property, Amanda Gould of HighSpec Properties, Edwina Brown of Yass Real Estate, Leisha de Aboitiz of Massons and Michelle McLean of Leah Jay. Well done ladies!

Leanne Pilkington Real Estate

Leanne also founded the Real Women in Real Estate networking group, which includes almost 3,000 members nationally. And she is the host of the weekly Courageous Conversations podcast, which features women sharing their experiences “based on the premise that we all have difficult conversations with ourselves and others, but we need to find that moment of courage to progress and achieve our goals.”

Leanne is passionate about addressing the gender imbalance in real estate and is establishing a Male Champions for Change program designed specifically for small businesses as, in her words, “not all real estate businesses are created equally. Some take the issues of gender balance, equal pay, support for domestic violence victims and the elimination of everyday sexism more seriously than others.” 

Encouraging and empowering women, Leanne is a wonderful example of using her position to lift up others and raise the standards in real estate. 

Meet Laura Valenti

Laura Valenti is one of Australia’s most experienced property managers and one of the few women founders of a major residential property management agency. In the last eighteen months, she has also taken on a role as an industry advocate to tackle domestic and family violence in Australia. 

“The property management industry is unique in being a window into people’s domestic lives through home inspections and regular communication with tenants. In most joint tenancies, the main point of contact is the woman in the relationship. So property managers may be the first people to recognise signs of domestic and family violence in tenants,” says Laura.

Laura has launched several initiatives, including a hand-delivered newsletter offering contact numbers and practical help to tenants who are experiencing domestic and family violence. Information is also provided in all tenant welcome packs so that any victims reading them will know they have a safe place to seek support. 

Laura Valenti Real Estate

As the momentum and interest from key stakeholders grew, Laura consolidated her work under one community program: SafeHome Alliance with its own website and social media pages – an insightful and potentially lifesaving initiative. 

SafeHome Alliance has become a go-to resource for information and help for not only our tenants and property owners but also tenants of other agencies and agents themselves,” says Laura.

In her role as an REIQ board member, Laura has lobbied intensely for new tenancy regulations that allow domestic and family violence victims to end leases faster and flee violence without penalty, even claiming their share of the bond if the partner stays and the lease continues.

What shines out for me here is Laura’s passionate commitment to encouraging the real estate industry as a whole to help domestic and family violence victims and bring about change for the better.

Meet Miriam Sandkuhler

Miriam Sandkuhler is a multi award winning, industry recognised buyers’ agent, vendor advocate and CEO of Future Wave Franchise – Property Mavens, based in Melbourne. She is the bestselling author of Property Prosperity and is a sought after property media commentator.

With only 600 buyers’ agents, predominantly female, in Australia, this is an embryonic business area, and Miriam has carved out a new space for her business by setting up and promoting a network of buyers’ agents and vendor advocates across the country. 

“When I started out there really weren’t many other buyers’ agents for me to share ideas with,” says Miriam, who has 25 years of experience in the industry. “I am now the first to give people a proper leg up into being a buyers’ agent. At Property Mavens we help Australians of all ages to buy and sell smart. We aren’t just buyers’ agents, we also help our clients with their investment decisions, from finding the right home for their lifestyle to renovating for profit or building an investment property portfolio. Plus we can assist clients with selecting a sales agent to sell a property too.”

Miriam Sandkuhler Real Estate

“As competition gets tougher and commissions get smaller, many selling agents are contemplating a career change. I saw the need to create an affordable business opportunity for qualified property professionals that would enable them to create financial security and work flexibility for themselves while addressing the trend towards better servicing their clients’ needs. So I franchised and launched Australia’s first Buyer and Vendor Advocacy Agency, “Property Mavens”.

With low entry and running costs, Property Mavens gives agents all the benefits of owning a business without the significant risk and expense of establishing a new brand from scratch. It particularly appeals to female and emotionally intelligent real estate agents, and it’s all about providing flexibility, freedom, higher incomes and a supportive collaborative community.

“As a Maven you have access to support, systems, and a strong values-based community, to enable you to create the life you love while keeping 84% of all revenue earned and generating financial security,” says Miriam. 

If you’re keen to learn whether your existing property skills would translate to being a successful buyers agent, complete the Property Mavens Quiz

Meet Darralyn Duffy

Darralyn Duffy is the principal of Century 21 Advance Realty in Bunbury, Western Australia. She has a strong focus on human resources and mentors other principals within WA. Her most recent success has been in developing a new reward compensation and performance management programme for staff. Her programme focuses on offering salespeople a quota-style bonus system, on top of a fair salary, and she says it has made staff both more at ease and more target driven. 

Darralyn Duffy Real Estate

“Our reward program successfully increased our net profit by 15% within three months of it being launched. Sharing this strategy with other principals in WA has allowed us to collectively create sustainable growth within the real estate employment sector and improve our business profits at the same time. We are not only employing more people, but through our performance management program, we have better salespeople. Our days on market are reduced and our staff are winning awards.”

Together we lift each other up

Speaking as a female business owner myself, I sometimes envy the fact that real estate agents work in different geographical areas and therefore aren’t in direct competition with one another. 

As an industry, real estate professionals are excellent at knowledge sharing and generous in sharing ideas and their success stories so that other property focused businesses can achieve the same. This seems easier when there is no direct competitive crossover between businesses. 

The digital marketing industry, in my view, could learn a thing or two about being so supportive of each other. Thankfully, I have been fortunate to work with the likes of Steve Carroll’s Digital Live initiatives which introduced me not only to other marketers in real estate but also Claire Baines from Hands Across the Water who made it possible for me to ride a pushbike 500 km across Thailand with 60 other real estate professionals in 2020. I’ve made some longtime friends in my discipline and I don’t mind promoting others through my video interview series as, in my view, there’s plenty of real estate businesses needing marketing and advertising help and therefore plenty of clients to go around. 

What comes across for me with these four industry leaders is a willingness to find ways their skills and knowledge can be applied to lift others up – profits aside, they want people to be safe, fulfilled and have the freedom to follow their dreams. I hope their stories have inspired you, or at the very least helped you to be proud of what you have achieved in your own business or career.


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Written by Melanie Hoole

My team and I specialise in helping real estate and property professionals perfect their personal brand, build a first-class digital profile and implement inbound marketing activities to attract leads. If you are unsure which direction to take with your digital marketing contact me for help.

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