Goldie Wolfe Miller knows what it’s like to be the only woman at the conference table. As one of Chicago’s top brokers for the past 40 years and founder of the country’s largest woman-owned commercial real estate (CRE) services firm, Wolfe Miller remembers when few women held positions of authority in the industry.
The situation may have improved over time, but women still face extra barriers to advancement and growth in CRE. To help level the playing field, Wolfe Miller started a program 10 years ago—now called The Goldie Initiative–to provide women in the industry with the guidance, skills and contacts to push to the corner office.
Since then, The Goldie Initiative has helped 60 women get graduate degrees, usually while they also hold down demanding full-time jobs. The Goldie Initiative provides assistance with tuition, but more important, participants get access to a deep pool of shared knowledge and expertise from top-level women across the industry. Wolfe Miller personally spends quality time with every program participant, and uses her stellar network of contacts to find the best possible mentor to advance the candidate’s expertise and connections.
“There’s a tremendous sense of pride for me to see these young scholars working to be number one in their field, with mentors who provide insights and strategies for driving to the corner office,” Wolfe Miller said. The proof of the organization’s effectiveness is in the results. “We don’t place people in jobs, but in many cases when a Chicago employee sees that someone is a Goldie scholar, they want that person on their team.”
Women who are accepted into the program are already working in the CRE industry, with the talent and ambition to rise to the top over time. The Goldie Initiative provides scholarship funds and other assistance to help participants get the most from graduate programs at universities such as Roosevelt, DePaul , Northwestern, University of Chicago and University of Wisconsin.
“It’s such a great experience to know Goldie herself, and she has also opened me up to a new circle of people through organizations like ULI and CREW ,” said Nicolette Domaradzki of BDO Consulting and a current Goldie scholar. Wolfe Miller arranged a mentor with senior-level expertise in valuations, Domaradzki’s specialty. “When I took on a new job last fall, my mentor helped me transition into the new role,” she noted.
“It’s an experience I’ll carry with me throughout my life,” said Nida Mehtab of Turner & Townsend. “Learning from women who have faced the same challenges, and absorbing their energy and passion, has helped me to engage at a higher level.” Since gaining her graduate degree with the support of the program, Mehtab has seen her career take off, rising from project manager to senior project manager to program manager of a large national portfolio in a few short years. “The Goldie Initiative deserves a lot of the credit” for giving her the confidence and providing growth opportunities, she said.
Paige Steers of JLL, one of the first graduates of the program, agrees that the experience was invaluable in helping her career trajectory over the past 10 years, from vice president to senior vice president to her current EVP-level role as global retail marketing director. “Goldie and my wonderful mentor gave me a strong foundation in capital markets knowledge during the sub-prime meltdown, which was critical expertise I could apply in my classes and with the capital markets team I was working with at the time,” she said.
Steers also places great value on the relationships she formed with other participants in the program. “I got to know women in senior positions, but I also met people who, like me, were in mid-level positions and on their way up.” The opportunity to connect with other rising stars is a gift that keeps on giving.
To celebrate the program’s 10th anniversary, The Goldie Initiative’s 10th Anniversary Gala will be held at the Wintrust Grand Banking Hall (231 South LaSalle) in Chicago on September 14. “We’re getting a great response from CRE leaders—men and women—who support diversity and inclusion, and want to get to know the leaders of tomorrow,” Wolfe Miller said.
Goldie’s Tips for CRE Success
1. Find a mentor – Someone who has walked in your shoes and succeeded can provide knowledge, guidance, contacts and empathy for the obstacles you face.
2. Join associations – Nothing beats face-to-face networking for making a solid impression. Getting involved helps to build relationships and to keep up with industry best practices.
3. Pursue advanced degrees – A graduate degree or other industry credential serves as proof of your drive and dedication, while enhancing your expertise and skill.
For more information on The Goldie Initiative and the Gala event, please visit our website.