All I wanted was an Education and to Stand on My Own Two Feet – Anna Thomas – Australia

The first time I experienced sexism was at the hands of my mother. I grew up in Richmond, Melbourne where my parents ran the local MCG  pub and my mother imported shoes. My mother had a strong

belief that girls should not be educated. Instead, our ‘duty’ was to be ‘barefoot and pregnant’ and this caused friction in the household between us when I was growing up because all I wanted was an education and to be able to stand on my own two feet.

Due to her belief that education was wasted on girls my mother attempted to take me out of school when I was in year 11. I fought to stay and thankfully my grandmother supported me in my quest to earn an education and finish high school which I did.

When I was 19, Mum kicked me out of home and I have supported myself ever since, working multiple jobs to put myself through university where I studied and completed a Bachelor Degree in Social Science. My grandmother, through helping me to stay in school and encouraging me to go to university, was the first experience I had of female empowerment. Her actions and support changed my life.

Without this experience, I don’t believe I would be as passionate about female empowerment as I am today and I thank my mother for this learning as it enabled me to pursue something I really care about. Since graduating from university I’ve run large teams in a variety of industries and established my own consulting, recruitment and training company which I ran for over four years. My clients included Telstra, CBA, Crazy Johns, Australian Air Express, Origin Energy, Officeworks, Nokia and Siemens amongst others.

I’ve worked in banking, technology, insurance and am now the Chief Operating Officer of real estate franchise, Stockdale & Leggo, a role I took on in 2012. In this role I am responsible for setting the strategic direction for Stockdale & Leggo. This involves setting and holding the vision, developing the growth strategy, ensuring we have the right technology infrastructure and rolling out innovative group marketing strategies which achieve cut through in a tough industry.

I am great at leading, mentoring and managing people and genuinely love feeling like I am making a difference. We have just over 1000 people in the overall group and I take that responsibility very seriously. It is a great privilege to be at the forefront of such an incredible company, working daily with many people I now call friends.

Due to my own disempowered childhood, I am incredibly passionate about empowering women in real estate and have worked to equalise the playing field within our own network by setting a goal of having 50/50 ratio of male and female franchisees by 2020 (currently we are at 20/65) which is a significant improvement from when I commenced, when we had only 3 female franchisees.

Having seen and experienced first hand the lack of support for women within the industry, I decided to establish a community which holds an annual event to inspire, motivate and support women within the real estate industry to step confidently into more senior roles and in the process take control of their own financial future. ‘Empowered Women in Real Estate’ is a movement, which holds one of the industry’s few women’s only events, designed to inspire and empower women into believing in themselves and chasing their dreams.

This event also raises money for charity through a silent auction where prizes are donated by sponsors and all money raised is given to a nominated charity. This initiative also helps dispel the industry’s gender wage disparity and raise awareness and support for women in the workplace. I reached out to some heavy hitters to establish further support including Domain, Westpac, Audi and Deloitte Private which has helped awareness spread more quickly. I’ve also now established an EWIRE Committee with some prominent female leaders from within and outside the industry to help push the movement and its mission forward.

My passions outside of my work are my two children and my husband. We live on 22 acres just outside of Melbourne and we grow our own fruit and vegetables, with two dogs, one kitten and 12 chooks. I play basketball with my son Will regularly and have started running again. I used to be a triathlete when I was younger but after getting married, having two children and taking on the COO role, I had not made this a priority however this has changed recently after a health scare.

In 2018 I’m focused on spending more time with my family and growing the Stockdale & Leggo franchise, continuing on with my role as Brand Ambassador for Empowered Women in Real Estate and hoping to positively influence the industry as a whole.

About the Author

Anna Thomas is the Chief Operating Officer of major Australian real estate network, Stockdale & Leggo. She was recognised as a Telstra Business Women’s Awards Finalist in the Corporate and Private Award in 2016, a 2017 Finalist in the Real Estate Business Awards ‘Industry Thought Leader of the Year’ Award and a Bronze Stevie winner in the Woman of the Year category in the 2017 International Business Awards.

She is also the Founder and Brand Ambassador of the ‘Empowered Women in Real Estate’ initiative, a community empowering women to believe in themselves and step forward into leadership roles.

For further information, interviews or speaking engagements, please contact Chiquita Searle e: p: 0423 686 380