For OneWorld Properties CEO Peggy Olin, diversity is power

Bucking the underrepresentation of women and minorities in real estate, OneWorld Properties President and CEO Peggy Olin and her team stand out.

“We sell to a diverse group of people,” Olin says. “Diversity in our team, from race, color, ethnicity, everything, it’s what gives us power as a team to be able to do that.”

Olin participated in a panel on “The Diversity Dilemma” this month at The Real Deal’s Miami Showcase & Forum.

“She is a transformer in her industry. She is one of the few women who lead an organization such as hers,” said developer Don Peebles, who moderated the discussion, which included luxury real estate broker John Gomes, co-founder of Douglas Elliman’s The Eklund|Gomes Team, and Melissa Rose, a managing director at Ackman-Ziff Real Estate Capital Advisors.

Peebles gave this startling stat—of the $69 trillion being managed by funds in the United States, just 1.3 percent is managed by funds owned or operated by women or minorities collectively.

Olin attributes her success to her assertiveness. In 2008, she started the OneWorld Properties brokerage firm, and in 2010, served as senior vice president and director of sales and marketing for ST Residential, a consortium that took over the assets of Corus Bank. She remembers being the only woman executive on the team and being questioned.

Under her leadership, ST Residential sold over $4 billion and 10,000 units across the country over three years.

“Even though some of that capital might not be readily available, you invest the time in yourself,” she says. “You got to be able to speak up.

“I needed to really come and prove myself and do the job. A lot of times, especially for minorities, sometimes you got to prove yourself; you work harder. Once you start executing, doors start opening.”

Peebles agreed women and minorities should not expect the industry to be fair but should embrace the opportunities that arise from that disparity in income and management.

Olin made being an immigrant from Peru who is now bilingual a positive.

“You want to be seen as an asset. You’re bringing a different set of values,” she says. “Working together as a team helps everyone.”

Gomes referenced Elie Wiesel’s Noble Peace Prize acceptance speech.

“The indifference in this world is what is hurting us the most,” he paraphrased. “We should all together fight for equality.”

Rose added: “Education is a huge piece of this. It’s really important for us to support and mentor kids coming up, educate them about the business we’re in.

“You’re not going to get hired or be successful entrepreneurs if you don’t have skills and aren’t the best at what you do. The more we’re helping people get there, the larger the talent pool.”

Companies are doing more to promote diversity such as JPMorgan Chases’s Advancing Black Pathways initiative, added Peebles: “Inclusiveness and fairness is not philanthropic. It’s fair and it’s good for business.”

The Peebles Corporation launched a $500 million investment fund for minority-led developments.

Olin said it’s important to be proactive and constantly growing.