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Coffee Talk
Business Observer Friday, Feb. 9, 2018 3 years ago

A man's job

Steve Zeris, Ivan Gould take the helm of women-centric real estate groups.

A pair of area networking and professional real estate organizations, with a charter that includes “advancing women as professionals and leaders” in their industry has a peculiar piece of data atop the masthead: These groups, at least for the next two years, will be run by men.

In one organization, the Women's Council of Realtors Manatee, Steve Zeris was recently installed as president of the six-person board, after a year as president-elect. In the Women's Council of Realtors Sarasota, meanwhile, Ivan Gould, a CCIM-designated commercial real estate broker, is president elect. He's set to be president in 2019. (More men: the 2018 president-elect for the statewide chapter is Andrew Bell, a Jacksonville Realtor.)

Zeris, with Re/Max Alliance Group, says he recognizes the oddity in his role, telling Coffee Talk “this is still an organization for advancing women.” An active member in the Manatee chapter for four years, Zeris is the first-ever male to oversee the council's board since it was founded in 1972. But, he adds, leadership is something that “shouldn't be locked into” a gender.

Sherry Grooms, a member of the Manatee chapter since 2000 and current president-elect, set to take over in 2019 after Zeris' term, agrees, saying a male president is overdue. “I have long awaited a male president and can't think of a better man than Steve Zeris,” Grooms, with SaraBay Real Estate, says in a written statement. “Woman or man, we all strive for professional equality in leadership. A great leader is a leader regardless of gender.”

Julia Montei, the 2018 president of the board of the Sarasota chapter, likewise considers Gould's appointment a male-empowerment moment. “We started out as a women's organization,” Montei says, “but men have good ideas, too.”

The Women's Council of Realtors, with some 12,000 members nationwide, including about 1,000 men, is an affiliate of the National Association of Realtors. The group was formed in 1938, when, according to the organization's website, “most decisions were still made by local boards — most of which were resistant to offering membership to women.”

The organization has since become one of the largest professional organizations for women nationwide. In addition to Sarasota and Manatee, it has several other chapters on the west coast of Florida. The six-person boards for the chapters in Tampa and Naples, according to each group's website, is currently all female.

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