From the WLI Networking Reception in Denver for the 2013 ULI Fall Meeting.

NEW YORK CITY-Throughout the commercial real estate industry there are a slew of organizations and groups all with the purpose of bringing like-minded people together. One of these, maybe a little newer than the others, is the ULI Women’s Leadership Initiative, which came into being a little over two years ago. This week, Pauline Nee; WLI Chair – Communications Committee, Andrea Wong–Miller; WLI Associate Chair, Merrie Frankel; WLI Chair – Outreach Committee and Diana Reid; WLI Chair – Executive Committee gave a little more insight into this organization and how it aims to make good on its mission statement.

1. GlobeSt: The mission of WLI is to “Raise the visibility and number of women leaders in ULI and the real estate industry.” Describe some ways that the association has been able to achieve this, for those unfamiliar with its principles. 

We launched the Women’s Leadership Initiative at the ULI 2012 Spring Meeting in Charlotte as part of ULI’s Larson Leadership Initiative.  25 long-time  leaders within of ULI came together over several months and developed four objectives for the initiative: 
* Promoting the advancement of women, throughout their careers, as leaders in the industry; 
Increasing the number of women who serve in leadership positions in the real estate industry and in ULI; 
* Increasing the visibility of women leaders in the real estate industry and in ULI; and 
* Increasing the number of women who are active ULI Full members, and supporting development of young women members as leaders in ULI and their professions. 

Some of our activities are summarized below: 
* Presentations during the ULI Spring and Fall meetings highlighting women leaders on important topics. * Speakers have included Robin Chase, Founder/CEO of Buzzcar; North Carolina State Treasurer Janet Cowell; Marilyn Jordan Taylor, Dean of the University of Pennsylvania School of Design; and Harriet Tregoning, Director of the Washington DC Office of Planning, to name a few. 
* Establishment of an annual scholarship program to recognize outstanding young women in ULI.  *Scholarship recipients receive financial support related to the annual ULI Fall Meeting, as well as a WLI mentor during the meeting, and guest participation in a ULI Product Council Day. 
* Initiating research on best practices of corporate programs which facilitate the advancement of women leaders in the industry. 
* Launching women’s leadership initiatives on the local level through ULI’s District Councils, including educational and networking events in Boston, San Francisco, New York, South Florida, Los Angeles with many more in the planning. 

2.  Globest:Social media is increasingly important for communication. How is WLI using it? 

Social media provides WLI with a great opportunity to engage women throughout ULI.  Our primary social media tool is LinkedIn where women have been sharing news articles about women in business, best practices on career development and updates on local WLI programming in the District Councils.  We have been delighted to see a broad range of women contributing to conversations, from college students to Managing Directors and Principals, women from the private and public sector.  We also use Twitter and we can be found at @uliwomen.  As WLI grows and the District Councils develop programs locally, we anticipate using social media even more to coordinate our efforts and inform the broader real estate community of our activities. 

3. Globest: What has been the most significant accomplishment of WLI to date? 

As the famous saying goes, “Think globally, act locally.”  While WLI is extremely proud of our initiatives on the national level, we are even more excited that many of our District Councils have successfully launched local WLI initiatives in the past year including networking receptions, speakers and group dinners.  These events have drawn hundreds of women in real estate in cities and regions all over the country including New York, Charlotte, San Diego, and Southeast Florida. 

4.  Globest:For the time that you have been involved with WLI, what changes have you seen in the real estate industry, in terms of its acceptance of women? 

The Women’s Leadership Initiative was established less than two years ago so it is difficult to measure significant changes in the real estate industry during that time.  Anecdotally, it seems that more women are achieving senior positions in real estate organizations, but the statistics aren’t there.  Today, only 42 of the Fortune 1000 companies have women CEOs, and women hold about 16% of the board seats at  Fortune 500 companies.  Research shows that companies with more diverse boards out-perform those without diversity.  (Cite Ferguson’s research on real estate boards.)  ULI’s women’s leadership initiative has set a five year goal that 30% of ULI’s Trustees, Board of Directors, Foundation Governers and Full Members will be women.  We believe that tapping the full potential of the workforce will help create a more robust and sustainable real estate industry and economy.  

5. Globest: How can younger women get involved with WLI and connect with other industry professionals? 

As with any professional organization, the best way for younger women to get involved and connect with others is to attend events regularly and start to build a network of colleagues within ULI.  Encourage your friends and colleagues in the industry to attend to increase connections at each event.  Consider joining planning committees, where you can meet other WLI members in a productive, smaller group setting and pursue topics of particular interest to you.  As you increase your connections within WLI, those connections will spin off into more connections and your network will grow exponentially.