When Real Estate Weekly hosted its inaugural Women’s Forum in 2012, it was one of Sarah Trefethen’s first assignment’s as a new reporter at Real Estate Weekly.
“It was a fantastic introduction to the New York real estate industry,” said Trefethen. “My first impression was that it was an industry dominated by smart, strong women.”
Trefethen, along with editor Linda O’Flanagan and reporter Holly Dutton make up three quarters of the editorial staff at Real Estate Weekly, a publication that has chronicled the business of buying, selling an building New York for the past 65 years.
Being at the helm of such an esteemed publication was never part of O’FLanagan’s plan when she left her native Scotland at the age of 30.
Coming from the Scottish Daily Record, the largest daily tabloid in the country, with an impressive resume of news, feature writing and editing to her credit, O’Flanagan thought the phone would be ringing off the hook once New York heard she’d arrived.
“After six months, I was working as a waitress wondering how much further I could stretch my savings,” she recalled. “I remember my dad telling me ‘Linda, in Scotland, you were a big fish in a little pond, now you’re a minnow in an ocean. There’s no shame in coming home.’”
Pride can be a terrible thing, but it can also drive even the most naive to succeed.
O’Flanagan ultimately took a job as a beat reporter on a local Connecticut newspaper and spent four hours a day commuting. When the local council held its night-time meetings, she’d sleep on a battered old couch in her editor’s office because the last train back to Manhattan left after the Selectmen’s close of business.
Climbing the career ladder for the second time in her life, she said, reaffirmed her passion for the job of story teller and, despite opportunities to find the New York streets that were paved with gold, she stuck it out and ultimately landed in the position she has now held for the past eight years.
“I never imagined I’d be writing about New York for a living,” said O’Flanagan, a mother of two Little Leaguers. “Now, I can’t imagine how I got by not knowing what I did.”
Boston-born Trefethen took a circuitous route to New York real estate, too.
When she was just 12, her parents set sail from Massachusetts with Trefethen and her younger brother in a 40 ft sailboat on a journey that would take three years and half the world to complete.
They arrived in New Zealand via central America, the Panama Canal and the south Pacific. Trefethen spent a year studying in Japan, graduated high school in New Zealand and then headed to college in southern California.
But she couldn’t quite stop scratching the urge to explore the rest of the world and, after a year working as an English teacher in China, spent all of her savings travelling through Central Asia and Eastern Europe.
She recalled, “The cheapest flight I could get back from Europe to the US was Dusseldorf to New York, so I ended up here and landed a job as a waitress in an East Village bar two days before Christmas.
“I am always fascinated by the built environment of my adopted home,” said Trefethen, who went on to complete her Masters in Journalism at CUNY and cut her writing teeth on a local New England paper before landing at REW. “I love the interplay of public policy, private industry and individual innovation that makes the whole thing tick.”
For Holly Dutton, it’s pictures that make up the words of her journey.
A photojournalism graduate of the Mayborn School of Journalism, this Texas Rose once landed in an Italian hospital for four days after trying to negotiate the canals of Venice with a tripod and long lense camera slung over her shoulder.
She covered the local news at The Tribune in Magnolia and shot the Rockets games for the Houston Chronicle. Her pursuit of the perfect image even saw her chase Hurricane Ike as it ravaged her home state in 2008, an ordeal she never imagined she’d re-live.
Serendipitous, perhaps, that one of her first assignments at REW was the damage Hurricane Sandy did to New York, its real estate and its people.
“Since moving here two years ago, I’ve lived in five different apartments — in DUMBO, Williamsburg, Harlem and Bushwick — and I’ve always found the landscape to be the stuff of great photographs,” said Dutton.
“Now I am telling the stories of these buildings and the people who make them work and it has elevated my own understanding of what makes this city great.”
“The journey of these three women is indicative of a tenacity and determination among today’s generation of female leaders that we aim to showcase here today,” Christopher Hagedorn, REW publisher, said of the second annual Women’s Forum.
“We hope everyone who takes part today will be inspired to challenge any barrier to their ambition.”