Real (Estate) Talk: ‘I didn’t know you were...’ What it's like for me as a Black millennial female agent

As featured in my monthly Inman New Column.  

‘You should be careful so no one mistakes you for a criminal’ while doorknocking 

‘You would look sooooo good with your hair straight’  

‘You probably don’t have a college degree’ 

‘This is YOUR property? But you are young, a woman, and Black!’ 

These are just a handful of the invalidating statements that I have heard over the 16 years that I have been a real estate investor, agent, broker, and international trainer/coach. 

To make matters more convoluted, my first name, 'Lee' with its spelling to many seems like a man’s name for an older person and 'Davenport' does not announce my race as Black. In this online age, I have been privileged to connect with potential buyer and seller clients along with tenants for the properties I have owned by email. I have been able to build a faceless rapport and establish credibility as a resource leader. But when they have met me in person, I was and am often greeted with audible gasps. I have even had some bodacious prospects follow-up their gasps of disbelief with statements like:

'I didn’t know you were a woman by your emails'

'I didn't expect you to be so young; how can you have enough experience?'

'I never thought you would be Black'

From those statements, I felt like I have hit the holy trinity of what some would consider a losing jackpot, which was probably evident on my face. So as a consolation, they would sometimes quickly and other times grudgingly throw in a statement similar to: ‘BUT you are so savvy and resourceful, I STILL want to work with you.’

Shut the front door! This hurts. If it were just once in a blue moon or a blue house, perhaps I would not remember these instances. Unfortunately, these were regular occurrences as I worked in the sales field. 

And these sentiments have not gone away as I work more in the office away from the field in training, development, and coaching. At times, neither my photo or bio are included in workshop promotions by different firms and associations, which never bothers me since the topic and the continuing education are what most care about and need. The result, however, is when seminar attendees get an opportunity to chat with me on breaks, it never fails that I hear at least one of the following:

‘I thought you would be Asian’ 

‘You look too young to have this experience’

‘Do you call yourself Dr., like Dr. Dre? You couldn’t possibly have that degree...’

What the fudge! It’s like I am on a never-ending episode of the TV show ‘The Voice’, with not my singing career at stake, but my livelihood, and perhaps my life, are on the line as my face is revealed. I never hide my identity yet it seems people do not connect the dots either. 

In the beginning, I had resigned my thoughts to maybe there is just something about me individually that random people from all walks of life will barrage me with comments that attempt to disqualify me. Regardless, I was not going to let comments derail my personal ambitions. That was until I was asked to mentor a new agent to the realty firm where I was then working as a fairly new agent myself. I was scared to mentor... how could I help someone else at the beginning of my career? That was until the prospective mentee told me her story of how her previous team leader used verbal abuse and fear ‘telling her she couldn’t do this without him’. At that moment, I realized I was not the only one being minimized in pursuit of my real estate dreams. 

I recognized then (and am driven by today) that there have to be voices that inspire us since there are inevitably voices that diminish us. The book, workshop, and coaching series, Profit with Your Personality (based on my real doctoral research), were birthed from this epiphany to help as many real estate professionals understand that we can grow our business with our innate strengths because ultimately we are all creative, resourceful, and whole people that likely just need strategy development. We don’t have to be cookie-cutters nor treated like incompetent buffoons. The nerve of some people! So I am determined to have the nerve to encourage and expand others. 

This is just my story of microaggressions in the real estate industry that over time did more than sting -- they have wounded very deeply. It feels like 'death by a thousand cuts'. Yet, I know any of you that have been on the receiving end of nawsayers -- perhaps not because of your race, gender, or age but something else -- likely have your own involuntary ‘The Voice’ experiences like my first mentee, who happened to be White. 

My Hope for Your Takeaway

Let's commit to not stand in the way of others shining. One way is if we normalize people showing up with whatever external cover they were born with, have aged into, or perhaps have chosen. This means we do not start sentences, even if it is meant as a compliment, with ‘I didn’t know you were...’ followed by a physical description. It often goes off the rails. We will likely find that our businesses and even lives will be enhanced by those whom on the surface we might have disqualified and discounted but they have 'The Voice' -- interesting and useful insight and perspective. 


Sound off - I would love to hear from you!  Give me a shout on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube, or by visiting  

Want more of the best practices of our nation's top producers? Grab your copy of the short read, Profit with Your Personality and, the classic, 5-star rated workbook, Plan to Win, to transform their real estate sales game plan. Or, get your "training on" with these on-demand classes.  Here's to your success! #LearnWithDrLee
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