This post was written by NAIOP member Diane K. Danielson, a consultant who works with clients to incorporate social media into their traditional marketing and business development plans.
On Nov. 2nd, over 100 women packed into Goulston & Storrs to hear from several of Boston real estate’s “Women of Influence.” The panelists and moderator (see photo) shared stories, tips and thoughts about what it takes to rise to the top in commercial real estate.
I’ve been working outside of the real estate industry for a little over five years and this was the first opportunity I had to gauge if anything had changed in my absence. Based on what I heard at the panel, it was clear that commercial real estate in Boston remains male-dominated, but discussions about gender in the workplace have, in fact, progressed. Here are a few observations I made – if you have your own, please share them in the comments.
- The panel consisted of four women who were presidents of major companies and/or national industry organizations. Finding this many women in these positions would have been a bit harder 5-10 years ago.
- When asked about life balance, no one shied away from the question or denied it was an issue. Their response: It’s hard. You’ll feel like you’re neglecting your family and your job. However, it’s up to you to decide how open you are about your non-work life in the office. It’s also up to the women and men in top management to set the example if they want a friendly work/life environment.
- Avoid carrying around a career killing chip on your shoulder. Yes, sexism does still happen, but it’s like any other obstacle in your career path, you have the power to either overcome it or succumb to it.
- Do the math. There is no part of commercial real estate that doesn’t involve finance. Learn the numbers even if you are in marketing or human resources. If you need to boost your understanding in this area, there are great educational institutions out there that can help you and your career.
- Stop sitting around waiting to get noticed. This was by far the most troubling part of the panel for me because I had assumed this would be a non-issue by now. Yet it seems that women still play the “good girl,” work hard, and don’t adequately self-promote. As a result, they are less likely to have “sponsors” in the office, i.e. individuals who will go out on a limb on their behalf. (Sponsors are more crucial than mentors for making it to the top, but that’s fodder for a whole other post.)
Perhaps my favorite highlight was when Sarah Abrams shared an anecdote about whenever she invited men to attend a NEWIRE event, they always asked “will other men be there?” If the shoe was on the other foot, i.e. if she made her decisions to attend real estate events based on whether other women would be in attendance, she certainly wouldn’t be sitting where she is right now.
- Sarah Abrams, former President of Fidelity Real Estate Company, President of the New England Chapter of CoreNet and of NAIOP Massachusetts (note: link is to a recent profile of Sarah at MIT CRE site)
- Lisa Brothers, Vice President, COO, and Co-Owner, Nitsch Engineering (president/CEO as of 2011), president of the American Council of Engineering Companies/Massachusetts, and recipient of many civic and professional awards
- Marty Jones, President of the Corcoran Jennison Companies, recipient of the Affordable Housing Vision Award by National Housing & Rehabilitation Association
- Amanda Strong, Asset Manager for Colony Realty Partners, Founder of AAREP New England and newly-elected President of AAREP-National
- Marilyn Sticklor, Director at Goulston & Storrs, twice-named a Massachusetts Super Lawyer, with expertise in all aspects of commercial real estate development.