Five leading ladies who inspire us on International Women’s Day

In recognition of International Women's Day, Toronto Storeys interviewed five major players in the city's real estate sector, to hear about their tremendous achievements, their words of advice, and who has inspired them in work and life. Clockwise from top left is Barbara Lawlor, Susan McIntee, Andrea DelZotto and Heather Rolleston. Not pictured is Julie Di Lorenzo.
In recognition of International Women’s Day, Toronto Storeys interviewed five major players in the city’s real estate sector, to hear about their tremendous achievements, their words of advice, and who has inspired them in work and life. Clockwise from top left is Barbara Lawlor, Susan McIntee, Andrea DelZotto and Heather Rolleston. Not pictured is Julie Di Lorenzo.

Women in the workforce have been making strides and breaking glass ceilings today more than ever before. They are uniting, fighting for equal pay and creating a path for more women to follow. Now more than ever, women are coming into their own.

In honour of International Women’s Day, March 8, we interviewed five highly successful women in Toronto’s hot real estate market to hear about their lives and accomplishments. These women inspire us and excite us, and learning about them only proves how powerful women truly are in whatever they choose to pursue.

Andrea DelZotto
Executive, Tridel Group of Companies

As a child, DelZotto dreamed of becoming a lawyer and a musician. So it’s no wonder she now focuses on all aspects of brand experience across the Tridel Group, which employs both her business and creative smarts. DelZotto says she’s inspired by brave and brainy women who make moves in male-dominated industries such as Jennifer Keesmaat, the chief planner for the city of Toronto.

DelZotto believes a work/life balance is critical, and her favourite quote said by Facebook executive Sheryl Sandberg is: “The most important career choice you’ll make is who you marry. I have an awesome husband, and we’re 50/50.” She spoke passionately about how having a supportive spouse — a real partner — will play a huge part in your success.

DelZotto’s advice to women: Stay true to your vision, learn to take criticism, learn to deal with adversity and allow yourself to grow by recognizing that small wins are just as important as big ones. She says: “Our greatest threat is not from our competitors but ourselves.” In her free time, Andrea loves being with her three sons and taking guitar lessons.

Heather Rolleston
Senior Architect at Quadrangle Architects Limited

For Rolleston, her future became clear when participating in a case study project on German-American architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe in a high school drafting class. She says it opened her eyes to architecture as a possibility for her future career. She was soon accepted to the University of Toronto’s architecture program and has never looked back.

Rolleston is inspired by women who are mothers, women in the workforce and brave women like actress Carrie Fisher. She believes that the biggest challenge for the generation of women behind her will be finding balance, as well as staying mentally healthy during times of turmoil, with issues such as the wage gap growing increasingly important.

Her advice is never shy away from stating your opinion and never be a “yes woman” — to always speak up if you disagree with something. She loves to collect things and refers to herself as a “completionist.”

Susan McIntee
Principal, 52 Pick-up Inc.

When McIntee was young, she dreamed of being a surgeon because of the number of health issues she had as a child. Later in life, she drifted to more of a creative professional life and went to school for graphic design. Thank god she did because her company has become a successful progressive marketing business, with a multitude of clients including renowned architecture firms and developers.

McIntee is inspired by female peers in her workforce and says her very first client, Donna Dooher of Mildred’s Temple Kitchen, influenced her the most due to her courage and perseverance. She recommends women conduct themselves professionally and concentrate on being smart, authentic and kind in career and life. She says to think about the work first and not the money, be passionate about what you do, dare to think outside the box and be able to take criticism.

When she’s not working, she enjoys spending time with her family and friends and her dog Gymmy. She loves the Toronto Raptors and the Maple Leafs (her company designed The Hockey Night In Canada logo).

Barbara Lawlor
President & CEO of Baker Real Estate Inc.

Lawlor discovered her love of real estate by meeting Pat Baker, the founder of the company. Lawlor is now president and CEO of this progressive company, and she now feels proud of the role she has played in Toronto’s real estate market. She’s inspired by such brave and outspoken women as Hazel McCallion, known as The Iron Lady of Mississauga and Hurricane Hazel, who served as Mayor of Mississauga from 1978 to 2016.

Lawlor believes the biggest challenge for the generation of women behind her will be finding good long-term employment to shatter those glass ceilings. However, she stresses hard work, credibility, communication and being a caring person are important attributes to get ahead. When she hires new team members, she looks for passion. Lawlor says that often things are lost between intellect and heart. She believes strongly in heart, and that being passionate brings out a leader’s ability to bring out the best in his/her’s team.

Growing up in Ireland, Lawlor’s father, Regimental Sergeant Major Henry Dixon, was honoured with the Nobel Peace Prize Medal. She says she learned to salute at a very young age and saw firsthand what possessing a dedicated work ethic could achieve. She enjoys walking her dog, listening to music and doing yoga in her spare time.

Julie Di Lorenzo
President at Diamante Urban Corp and Diamante Development Corporation

As a kid, Di Lorenzo wanted to be a lawyer and a poet, fascinated by the way words can work wonders and make an impact. Her grandmother, Elisa Di Bartolomeo-Di Lorenzo, was a community leader, entrepreneur and fearless advocate for human rights from the 1930s to the 1970s. A powerhouse in her own right, her grandmother influenced her deeply. She also admired Margaret Thatcher for her humble beginnings and ability to climb the political ladder. Di Lorenzo references Geena Davis and her See Jane project, affiliated with her Institute on Gender in the Media: “Geena Davis’s Jane project speaks to the absence of women on the screen … It doesn’t help that because no one expects there to be women developers that no one misses us!”

Di Lorenzo believes that being a mentor to younger women in the industry is important, and has more and more women working in her office. Her advice to up and comers is to never stop persevering and learning from intelligent people in front of you. She spends her free time with her incredible group of family and friends.

These five women are not only extraordinary in their field, but they are remarkable people in their own right. They are achievers and have persevered in times of adversity. They are part of the reason the future is looking brighter for women in the workforce — and notably in the Toronto real estate market.

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