Condo managers breaking gender stereotypes

Women executives share their journey into leadership
Tuesday, August 15, 2023
By Sarah Farr

The underrepresentation of women is a prevailing narrative across the traditionally male-dominated building sector, but the world of condo management tells another story. In a recent email correspondence, the Association of Condominium Managers of Ontario (ACMO) confirmed that, according to a 2020 survey of members, over 55 per cent of their Registered Condominium Managers (RCMs) are women. Here, a few executives explore their journey into condo leadership.

Being a condo manager wasn’t the expected career path for Michelle Joy, who received her RCM designation in 2017 and is now an executive director of property management for Wilson Blanchard Management.

Looking back, the 34-year-old is surprised where life has taken her. She joined the accounting team at Wilson Blanchard in 2014 and quickly took up the ACMO courses offered in-house to become licensed. Having already earned a degree in political science and an accounting diploma, studying was nothing new to her.

Her accounting skills helped navigate the financial planning and budgeting aspects of the corporations she managed. In fact, it was through work with an auditor that she gained her first insight into the industry. “We were at the office (at WB) in our little backroom for four or five days straight,” she says. “I thought it looked like a fun place to work.”

Five years after achieving her license, she was invited to be a guest speaker and moderator on panels, sitting next to the lawyers who inspired her as a junior manager.

“One of the first public speaking events I did was with Patricia Elia (of Elia Associates) when the new Act came out,” Joy says. “I had the worst case of imposter syndrome. It took me a while to build confidence for public speaking. Now, I love it.”

When asked how she’s been so successful, she says it’s important for new managers not to put too much pressure on themselves. “Property managers are expected to be so well-rounded in such a diverse number of topics. There’s no way you can know it all.”

Her career now involves teaching with the Condominium Management Regulatory Authority of Ontario (CMRAO)—something that she enjoys immensely—and she’s seeing a lot of female enrolment. “There are so many more women in the industry and I think that’s fantastic.”

Angel-Marie Reiner is the owner, co-founder, and president of the Onyx Group of Companies, which she operates with her husband, Eric. In 2018, the Onyx Group managed a portfolio of commercial and residential properties but also developed their own low and mid-rise apartment buildings.

“We tried to find managers and found it difficult to find somebody who cared about our tenants and the aesthetic of our property and investment,” Reiner says. Frustrated, she took over the management side of the operation. “I woke up one day and I was a property manager.”

In 2019, Onyx started getting requests to manage condominiums. After working through the licensing requirements, Onyx opened their own condo management division, which Reiner now owns and leads—headed up by a primarily female team.

Bringing strong and supportive women together paid off for her that same year when a sub-metering division of the Onyx Group received a $100,000 federal government grant through the Women Entrepreneurship Fund. “I felt particularly proud because that space (sub-metering) is very male-dominated.”

She’s seeing more women rising up in leadership roles, but has noticed hesitation from some of the trades.

“A lot of people don’t know that as part of my early career, I sold construction materials. We had to do a roof inspection on an industrial roof and, I won’t name the company, but he suggested I didn’t need to come up to look.”

Many female managers begin as administrators and work their way up. “We share the path our staff have taken and what it could look like for them. Females within the industry are supporting each other in a wonderful way. I don’t think the career is for the faint at heart, but it’s very rewarding.”

Elaina Kutz is co-founder of Three By Three Inc, a boutique condominium management company in Calgary, Alberta. By the time the 39-year-old entrepreneur bought a unit in a self-managed condo, she already owned several revenue properties. She volunteered for the board and quickly discovered the amount of work involved in self-managing.

“We were all getting burnt out,” she says. When they started to look into condo management firms to take over, costs were “crazy expensive” and she was told the 16-unit condo didn’t translate to enough profit.

Every now and then she’d joke with another woman board member about starting a condo management company. Initially, the two hadn’t got along, but after a board meeting one evening, Kutz convinced her to go for drinks.

Both agreed that “someone needed to look after the little guys,” so the conversation around managing condos returned and Three By Three was formed. The name is based on three women using three very different methodologies. Employees work remotely and maximize the use of Google Suite.

She asserts that to make a difference in this industry, it’s not whether you’re male or female, but how you handle tricky situations. “The way that some individuals speak to me versus how they would speak to a male is very different,” she says.

Discussing organization, all three women say they strategize their days using calendars, and keeping on top of their emails is paramount.

“My inbox is organized,” explains Joy. “I have a bajillion folders—probably more folders than anyone needs.”

Kutz also agrees that inbox organization is an important tool. “Being at a zero inbox is a massive takeaway that I would recommend anybody do,” she says. “I live and die by my calendar. Anytime anybody wants anything, it goes in my calendar.”

Reiner says that keeping connected to her team has been an important structuring tool. “We have team meetings and talk about what’s getting us stuck. When I get to the office each day, I get my ideas into a OneNote and decide how I’m going to tackle the day.”

For anyone considering a career switch into condominium management, Kutz recommends researching how the company operates. “The work-from-home option for someone new to the industry is phenomenal. Being male or female is irrelevant; you still end up with chaos on your plate.”

Sarah Farr is a writer, researcher and condo geek. In her spare time, she writes about historical true crime from her hometown of Hamilton, Ontario.

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