“Choose to challenge,” is the theme of this year’s International Women’s Day, which celebrates the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women around the world. Held on March 8 during Women’s History Month, the event asks, “How will you help forge a gender equal world? Celebrate women’s achievement. Raise awareness against bias. Take action for equality.”

To mark this year’s celebration, we spoke to our President Rainy Hake Austin about her rise to the top of the real estate industry. Prior to joining The Agency’s executive team, Rainy was head of operations west at Compass and Executive Vice President of esteemed Northern California luxury brokerage Alain Pinel Realtors.

Q: What does this year’s International Women’s Day theme #ChooseToChallenge mean to you?

A: For me, it means choosing to be your best and inspiring others around you to do the same. I believe that everything in life is a choice. I wake up each morning and ask my 3-year-old daughter if she will choose to make today a good day or a bad day; it’s her choice. We choose how we spend our time, who we surround ourselves with, how we react to obstacles—these choices shape who we are. I also believe the purpose of life is to learn and grow as individuals and through the impact of those around us. We can all do better and be better, and I aspire to both every day.

Q: Was a leadership role your initial career goal when you entered real estate? How did your career path evolve?

A: I started in real estate at a young age, and I learned about each and every facet of the business working in various departments—marketing, operations, and sales. I worked hard and quickly moved up the ranks. I was inspired to solve problems and create efficiencies and kept challenging myself to learn new things, do my personal best, and add value to those around me.  I hope to inspire others around me to do the same.  

Q: Have you faced barriers in becoming successful as a woman in real estate? How did you overcome them?

A: Barriers exist in all career paths. I found that I had to work harder and produce at higher rates to earn the respect and trust of those around me. It was a challenge, but to me, it is the challenges in our lives that present us with our greatest opportunities and leave us better than before.

Q: What advice would you give to women pursuing a career in real estate, whether in sales, marketing or leadership?

A: Don't try to be something you're not. Often in business, women think that they need to act like men to be taken seriously in a man's world. I believe business, like life, is a balancing act. I believe that a combination of masculine and feminine attributes is what creates successful outcomes. So, be your best and do your best; staying true to who you are and leveraging your personal talents is always the best course of action. For me, this means applying creativity to problem-solving, being strategic, having compassion and empathy for those around you, and knowing that you shine brightest by helping those around you shine.

Q: How do you believe individual actions, conversations, behaviors and mindsets impact our larger society?

A: We are a sum of our parts. What we do, say and think greatly affects the whole. Our words, actions and thoughts manifest our reality and the reality of those around us. I believe that if you focus on the positive, you will manifest positive outcomes, just as the opposite is true for those who focus on the negative. This is why I aspire to practice daily gratitude and try to be intentional about my choices. The words I choose to speak, the people I choose to spend precious time with, the content I absorb influence the person I am.

Q: How can we advocate for women in the workplace?

A: I don't focus on the gender divide specifically; rather, I have built my career advocating for those I believe are well-intentioned people with great potential. However, I would suggest that we can advocate for women in the workplace by holding space for encouragement. Encouraging smart, creative women to speak up, share their ideas and have a voice. Let your light shine, and encourage others around you to do the same.

For me, as a mother of two young daughters and a female businesswoman, l am proud to set an example for my girls. I want them to know that they can do and be anything they want. I want them to choose joy in their lives, and I want them to lead by example as good stewards in their community by always adding value to those around them and proactively seeking out ways to make the world a better place than they found it.