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Women in CRE and the Importance of Mentorship

The field of commercial real estate has traditionally been a difficult one for women. However, the situation is improving, thanks to the individuals who have blazed a trail in the CRE world. Many have embraced the concept of “paying it forward,” and have offered a hand up to the next generation.

Both our Pay It Forward and Women Of Influence categories have presented individuals who have been willing to guide others, either through direct mentorship or participation in organizations that widen the playing field in our industry.

One piece of advice that keeps coming through in our Q&A sessions is that women in CRE need to be fully aware of their self-worth. Rainey Shaine, VP at JLL, shares, “Taking stock of (your) inherent strengths and cultivating them will form the foundation of confidence.” 

Robin Ziegler, EVP and COO of Cedar Realty Trust, emphasizes the importance of having someone remind you of your value. “Early in my career, I remember walking out of a conference room of all white male counterparts. I was the youngest, I was the only female and the only person of any form of diversity in the room. As we walked out, my boss said something to me that changed my thought process. He said, “You are just as smart, if not smarter, than everyone in that room.”

Many of the women of influence we spoke with referred to a history of being underestimated by men in positions of power. Robin Ziegler wisely states, “If someone wants to underestimate your abilities, let them.” Laurie Lustig-Bower, EVP of CBRE, tells us, “To overcome this issue, I usually take special care to demonstrate my abilities and confidence in order to ensure that I don’t get dismissed or overlooked on the basis of being female.”

It isn’t just what women can do individually. Mentorship and organizations are lifting up women in business everywhere, including Real Estate. “I am proud to see the movement we are now living, of women collaborating to build each other up, rather than tear one another apart,” says Lissette Calderon, President and CEO of Neology Life Development Group.

Specific advice comes from Dorothy Alpert, Principal and Tri-State President at Avison Young: “Women should focus on three areas: 1) Get a mentor or mentors early in your career; 2) Get involved in every opportunity available: declining an invitation to participate will be a missed opportunity; 3) Network as much as possible, even with peers from other companies.”

Several of our interviewees spoke of membership in women’s real estate organizations. Following are a few links to groups that are dedicated to furthering the careers of women in real estate:

The National Association of Women in Real Estate Businesses

CREW Network

Women’s Council of Realtors

~Article Contributed by Cary Steiner~

Find more CRE career advancement tips and inspiring stories from industry leaders in our Pay It Forward series.

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