Is real estate still a man’s world? From architecture to brokerage to property management and everything in between, women continue to make strides in CRE, occupying top roles throughout the field.
That’s not to say, however, that the experiences of women in commercial real estate are fully equitable or that we don’t still have some progress to make. For that reason, REjournals recently gathered 14 women to speak at the 2nd annual Women in Real Estate Conference.
Lisa Davidson, vice chairman and chief diversity officer at Savills, moderated the first discussion, which gathered Influential women in CRE. Joining her were Alba Colavitti, senior design associate at Lamar Johnson Collaborative; Helen Karlos, vice president, property management at Zeller; Dannielle Lewis, senior manager at Wipfli and Danielle Tillman, managing principal at bKL Architecture.
Looking back on how they might change things early on in their careers, the panelists agreed that they were perhaps more timid than their male peers. They said that they would have taken more chances early on and not worried about seeming naïve or inexperienced.
“You need to ask questions like there’s no tomorrow,” Colavitti said. “Jump in and get out of your comfort zone. You can make mistakes, just don’t make them too expensive.”
Even though women make up a sizable portion of the CRE workforce, some men are still adjusting, especially when women are in authoritative roles. Tillman described an instance where the contractor on a site that she was project managing introduced her to his crew and stressed that she was in charge. While welcome, she knew that the same would not have to be done if she were a man.
LaVon Johns, partner at Quintairos, Prieto, Wood & Boyer, moderated the second panel discussion which focused on property management. Joining her were Angela Aeschliman, CPM, CCIM, LEED AP ND, senior vice president property and asset management at The Missner Group; Jillian Brown, senior consultant, flexible office solutions at Avison Young; Nancy Roach, president at Strada Real Estate Services and Carrie Szarzynski, director of management services at NAI Hiffman.
When discussing property management, COVID-19 looms large at the moment. The panelists discussed the challenges they have faced during the pandemic, from communicating (often shifting) CDC guidelines to their tenants to strategizing long-term for when occupants begin to return.
Brown said that one strength that she and many other female property managers have relied on during this crisis is empathy. A trait that perhaps comes easier to women than to men, she said that it provided her the desire to understand what individuals and organizations were going through and therefore, what she can do to make their experience better.
According to Roach, the mettle of her leadership was tested by early upheavals during her career, but never more so than during the COVID-19 situation.
“I look at it not so much as a male versus female thing, but what kind of leader you are,” Roach said. “This pandemic has separated the boys and girls from the men and the women.”
The final panel gathered established leaders to discuss current workplace issues. Jessica Lingertat, managing partner at Gould & Ratner moderated the panel which featured Alissa Adler, senior vice president at Colliers International; Trish Kelly, president, corporate banking at TCF Bank and Kathryn Kovitz Arnold, partner and chair of the real estate condominiums groups at Taft Stettinius & Hollister.
This discussion also revolved around the pandemic and its impacts on commercial real estate. Adler discussed how office users are kicking the can down the road as they wait to see how things shake out. Kelly discussed holding client meetings outdoors or on the golf course as a way to maintain face time with clients.
“People sometimes wrongly believe that women have a different approach to communication,” Kelly said, “and not being in person they don’t have body language to go off of. We have to use our words more carefully.”
Did you miss this conference? Don’t forget to visit our events page so you are up to date on all of our upcoming seminars and conferences.