Karen Simon: A Pioneering Woman Leader Breaking Real Estate Barriers

Karen Simon - Breaking Real Estate Barriers | Emerson's Commercial Real Estate | Enterprise Wired

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Women in real estate have historically dealt with factors like lack of mentorship, bias, and unequal access to opportunities—contributing to their underrepresentation. Overcoming these limitations and becoming a leader in the industry has never been easy. Karen Simon, President and Managing Partner at Emerson’s Commercial Real Estate faced even harsher circumstances.

However, with her grit and passion for work, Karen continued her pursuit of real estate leadership to become one of the Most Empowering Women Leaders in the industry.

Real Estate Leadership as a Woman 

Resilience and innovation are the cornerstones of Karen’s career path. Breaking the barriers in the 1980s, Keren became the first woman to lead an industrial and land division at Henry S. Miller, a Texas real estate giant. Recognizing the need for specialized knowledge, she actively pursued training to excel in this male-dominated real estate field.

In the 1980s, leveraging changing markets, Karen built her own firm (The Real Estate Group)—capitalizing on government opportunities for women and minorities. To further solidify her position in the commercial real estate field, she climbed the leadership ladder at the Woodmont Company and the Bradford Company.

Karen co-founded the Tarrant County office of Emerson’s Commercial Real Estate, a natural culmination of her extensive experience and entrepreneurial spirit In 2016. Through her story, she has inspired all those who seek to break barriers and build successful careers in commercial real estate.

Comprehensive Real Estate Experience

Opening the Bradford office was a pivotal turn in Karen’s career. This 12-year experience offered a sense of stability compared to the volatility of her previous roles. While her time at Miller involved active business development, it ended abruptly. On the other hand, her own firm, The Real Estate Group, had limitations due to its focus on government contracts.

However, Bradford provided a comprehensive commercial real estate experience. Management, sales, leasing, and consulting—each task presented new challenges. At Bradford, Karen discovered her passion for the real estate industry. Despite this, the lack of ownership opportunities remained a constant issue. 

As a well-run company, the sole ownership nature of Bradford lacked the decision-making input from management—leaving Karen yearning for a role with a greater sense of agency.

Karen Simon

Challenging the Stereotypes

Karen’s journey began in 1983 when standing out in the industry was difficult—in industrial real estate schools, she was surrounded by a sea of men. Undeterred, Karen actively contributed to establishing the first Tarrant County commercial real estate women’s organization in 1987. 

Through her dedication and client focus, Karen challenged stereotypes. She learned that clients did not resent dealing with a woman at all, they valued her commitment, work ethic, and problem-solving skills, not her gender. Her success story is a prime example that hard work and a willingness to learn can help you overcome any barrier. 

Promoting Gender Diversity

Inclusion is a core value at Emerson’s Commercial Real Estate. A strong female presence in leadership, including my co-partner, reflects their commitment to diversity across all ethnicities. This wasn’t something I had to advocate for – it’s simply how they operate. Our team’s diverse perspectives fuel creative solutions and exceptional client service.

An Empowering Work Culture

Emersons Commercial Real Estate understands the importance of fostering an empowering work environment for its team. During the pandemic, we embraced remote work options for select employees who preferred it. While in-person collaboration remains essential, Emerson prioritizes flexibility within a supportive framework. This approach allows its team members to thrive and deliver exceptional results.

Real Estate Opportunities: Men vs. Women

The commercial real estate landscape is developing constantly. While women remain underrepresented in leadership roles, their contributions cannot be overlooked. Over the past three decades, the real estate industry has witnessed a surge in female professionals making significant strides within the industry. This trend signifies a future rich with diverse perspectives and expertise, ultimately benefiting all stakeholders.

The Recipe for Success

Success in commercial real estate hinges on trust. Transparency is key—acknowledge knowledge gaps and express commitment to finding solutions, says Karen Simon. Going the extra mile demonstrates dedication. Be the first to show clients their needs are paramount, whether it’s scheduling a weekend tour or tackling a research challenge. These actions build lasting relationships that boost referrals and drive growth.

I think women need to be able to say, as should men, “I don’t know the answer to your question, but it’s a good question, and I will find out.” I think the humility of recognizing that you can’t be the best at everything and have all the answers is essential.

The Role of Tech in Real Estate

Technology has revolutionized commercial real estate, but face-to-face interaction remains irreplaceable. While digital tools streamline communication, nothing surpasses a personal tour to showcase properties and build rapport. Encouraging younger team members to develop the art of conversation fosters stronger client relationships, leading to higher engagement and ultimately, greater success.

Cultivating The Next Generation of Women Leaders 

Gender should never be a barrier to success in commercial real estate, emphasizes Karen Simon. Professionalism and respect are paramount. Acknowledge courteous gestures while prioritizing your expertise and dedication. Building trust is key: prioritize client needs and foster open communication. 

By combining strong interpersonal skills with in-depth knowledge, you can become a trusted advisor and win in today’s Real Estate landscape.

Karen’s journey is filled with knowledge, integrity, and a genuine desire to see others succeed. Here are her golden nuggets for aspiring entrepreneurs, especially young women in commercial real estate:

  • Success is more than money: It’s about feeling good about what you do and having a life outside of work. Financial stability is important, but fulfillment comes from passion and purpose.
  • Lift as you climb: Achieve success without stepping on others. True accomplishment comes from making things happen without causing harm.
  • Be a lifelong learner: Knowledge is your armor. Fearlessly admit what you don’t know, and then eagerly seek the answer. Be the best-educated version of yourself.
  • Know your turf: Develop a deep understanding of your local market and couple that with a laser focus on your clients’ needs. It’s a winning melody
  • Pay it forward: Karen Simon never had a mentor, and she’s passionate about providing guidance to those following in her footsteps. Let her be your champion!

Company Information:

Karen Simon - Breaking Real Estate Barriers | Emerson's Commercial Real Estate | Enterprise Wired

Quotes:

I was the first female to head an industrial or to head any commercial department within the Miller organization. When I walked into a room, people knew who I was because I was the only woman.

Karen Simon

All clients wanted was someone who was concerned about their business, and was willing to get a job done. So, although I was the first, I always felt that I was pushing the envelope and that there was progress.

Karen Simon

I think women need to be able to say, as should men, I don’t know the answer to your question, but it’s a good question, and I will find out. I think that the humility of recognizing that you can’t be the best at absolutely everything and have all the answers is essential.

Karen Simon

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