“Faces & Voices of Leadership in Real Estate” held February 25 by the Silicon Valley Association of REALTORS® featured Santa Clara County Supervisor Otto Lee and East Bay REALTOR® Mony Nop, as key speakers, and a panel of leaders from Silicon Valley multicultural real estate associations. They included Chika Mori, 2021 president of the Asian Real Estate Association of America; Mark Taylan, 2021 president of the Filipino American Real Estate Professional Association; Dexter Lat, past president of the Chinese American Real Estate Association; Hilda Ramirez, co-founder of the National Hispanic Organization of Real Estate Associates; Paige Nguyen, 2021 president of the Vietnamese National Association of Real Estate Professionals; and Ketan Jashapara, 2021 president of the Residential Real Estate Council.

The panelists, featured first, discussed their respective leadership roles and views and experiences with diversity and inclusion in real estate. Nguyen said as a leader she has learned “when everyone comes together for the same purpose, we can do great things.”

Taylan said the biggest challenge for all leaders is devoting time to volunteer, but indicated it is worth it. Mori said she is able to meet many amazing real estate professionals, which has helped her be a better REALTOR® and leader.

Lat said leadership has opened many opportunities for his business. Ramirez added it is not enough to get involved with one organization, that being involved with many opens more doors. She said leadership is time consuming, but emphasized, “You get double what you put into it.”

“Real estate professionals from diverse backgrounds have more in common with each other than they realize. Leadership roles develop professional skills, professional networks, enable us to represent our communities, have a voice and, above all, make a difference,” said Jashapara.

The panelists said while leaders from different ethnicities may have to overcome cultural difficulties at the start, they learn to grow. When program participants were polled on whether they felt excluded in association events because of their race or ethnicity, 3 percent said yes and 97 percent said no.

Nop and Lee, both immigrants who came from troubled countries, were able to adapt and succeed in America. A survivor of Cambodia’s Killing Fields, Nop related how he would root through dumpsters at the age of six eating rats and other animals to keep from starving.

“You name it, I’ve eaten it,” said Nop.

Arriving in California from a refugee camp in the Philippines, Nop soon thrived. He served 17 years as a Livermore police officer, then became a REALTOR® and community leader. He is a recipient of the National Association of REALTORS® Good Neighbor award.