Women in Commercial Real Estate

Chicago, IL | March 04, 2019

March is Women’s History Month, a time to celebrate women’s past and present contributions to our country and the world at large. In addition to recognizing the incredible strides women have made socially, politically, and economically, Women’s History Month is also a time to acknowledge the work still to be done in order to reach full gender equality.

In 2017, women made up nearly half of the US workforce1 and were more represented in managerial, executive, and C-suite-level positions than ever before. Of the nearly 4.5 million new management jobs created between 1980 and 2010, a majority of those positions were obtained by women.2 What’s more, the gender wage gap has also significantly narrowed since 1980, with women on average earning about 82% of what men made in 2017.3

Despite vast improvements in representation, female leadership, and income equality, we still have a long way to go to – particularly for women of color, as well as those who identify as members of the LGBTQ community. We cannot reach true gender parity in the workforce unless the fight for equality includes all women.

It’s also important to keep in mind that gender equality varies significantly by job type, with the largest disparities seen in “male-dominated” industries, such as architecture and engineering, computer programming, and construction management.4 In industries where women are effectively closing the representation gap, such as commercial real estate, income inequality still persists. According to a 2015 Benchmark Study Report by CREW Network, the gender wage gap in CRE is particularly pronounced in higher level positions and within certain specializations, such as brokerage and development.5

MB Real Estate supports the continued fight for gender equality in CRE and in our community, and we recognize the complexity of achieving true parity. In this piece celebrating women and their achievements, we learn the stories of MBRE’s amazing women professionals and why it’s important for women to have a seat at the table, from their point of view.

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Patricia Aluisi - EVP & Chief Operating Officer

MBRE Women in Commercial Real EstateHow did you end up in commercial real estate?

I became interested in CRE after representing real estate developers during my time practicing law. I liked being part of process where I could see the physical result of my team’s labor take shape.

What do you like about MBRE? How has the company helped you develop professionally?

I love the collegiality and professional integrity at MBRE. Every member of our team works hard towards a common goal, and we are a very close-knit group.

MBRE is a safe place to voice my opinion and is very receptive to my advocacy for women and diversity in the workplace, which is a must for any company I work for.

Why do you think it’s important for women to have a seat at the table?

When I was working internationally for another company, I was often the only woman in the room where big decisions were being made. More than once, I was told that I was, “not like other women,” and exceptional in some way. In reality, there just weren’t enough women represented in the industry for these men to realize that I wasn’t the exception, and that many women could do my job (and their jobs too) if given the opportunity.

Additionally, women come to the table with different experiences than men. Having homogenous points of view inform all the important decisions stifles evolution, which is necessary for companies to adapt to shifting industry paradigms. That is why diversity matters for business.

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Krysta Bavlsik - EVP, MBRE Healthcare

MBRE Women in Commercial Real EstateHow did you end up in commercial real estate?

After leaving college, I wanted to put my new shiny Economics degree to good use, work hard, and be part of a strong team. I was offered a job in the research group at one of the biggest international CRE firms, which laid the foundation for my current role as an Executive Vice President for MBRE Healthcare.

What do you like about MBRE? How has the company helped you develop professionally?

MBRE excels at creating opportunities for employees and rewarding high levels of effort. I was able to raise my hand to work on interesting projects, which helped me make a name for myself and be chosen for even more interesting projects down the line.

Why do you think it’s important for women to have a seat at the table?

Our healthcare group has grown rapidly in the last few years and we pride ourselves on being practical, agile, and responsive. In order to sustain our company values in the midst of such growth, we need people with diverse opinions, perspectives, and strengths; women are a big part of this approach.

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Shiuwah Lam - Project Manager, Project Services

MBRE Women in Commercial Real EstateHow did you end up in commercial real estate?

After working in healthcare for seven years with an architectural background, I wanted to experience a new challenge. Commercial real estate interested me because of its versatility. In project management specifically, each project has its own set of unique challenges that keep my work interesting, and I feel a sense of fulfillment when we create a quality end product for our clients.

What do you like about MBRE? How has the company helped you develop professionally?

MBRE has a very collaborative environment and open-door policy that makes it easy to connect with colleagues, both professionally and personally. My team largely consists of people who’ve been in the industry a long time and the relationships I’ve forged with them have helped me further my industry knowledge and progress my career.

Why do you think it’s important for women to have a seat at the table?

In male-dominated industries like project and construction management, it’s important to include women who can then advocate for gender equality and greater diversity, so that it isn’t overlooked. Having people from different backgrounds with different experiences is particularly crucial in decision-making roles, especially in dynamic and highly competitive industries like ours.

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Cory Schauer - VP/Director, Human Resources

MBRE Women in Commercial Real EstateHow did you end up in commercial real estate?

I ended up in commercial real estate purely by accident. I had just finished grad school and wanted to make a career change into HR. At that time, I knew very little about HR or CRE, but MBRE took a chance on me, and here I am almost 12 years later!

What do you like about MBRE? How has the company helped you develop professionally?

MBRE has a unique culture that is simultaneously nurturing and inspiring. I am surrounded by extremely dedicated and bright people who challenge me to always strive to do my best work. At the same time, MBRE’s employees have integrity and are loyal to the company, and each other. My colleagues make me want to be both a better employee and a better person.

Why do you think it’s important for women to have a seat at the table?

Women provide an unmatched degree of empathy, which is critical for organizations to function at their highest (and most human) level. A work environment where people feel heard and supported is an important part of attracting talent and keeping current employees happy. I also believe that women are more likely to share their ideas when other women are around, which is important because we have great ideas!

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

When I started at MBRE in 2007, I knew nothing about CRE and thought I’d stay for a few years, get some experience, and then move on. I never thought I’d be here 12 years later, and it’s because MBRE values its employees and their hard work. Anytime I’ve felt that I was beginning to plateau, I’ve been given the opportunity to take on more or pursue new ideas. Since joining the company, I have become a wife and mother and have never been made to feel less valuable or less able to contribute. As I tell potential employees, if you’re willing to put in the work, there is nothing stopping you from going far here – the world is your oyster at MBRE!

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Lara Ziemba - Director of Events, Chicago Cultural Center

MBRE Women in Commercial Real EstateHow did you end up in commercial real estate?

I ended up working for MBRE through the event industry, so it was somewhat incidental. I’m a longstanding member of the Cultural Center’s events team, and we were privatized under the company in 2012.

What do you like about MBRE? How has the company helped you develop professionally?

After years of working in local government, working in the private sector has been a nice change of pace. MBRE has been extremely supportive of our team, even though what we do is a bit outside the norm in the CRE business. MBRE has helped me grow professionally by giving me the opportunity to take on more responsibilities so that I’m always learning in my role.

Why do you think it’s important for women to have a seat at the table?

Any industry benefits from having women equally represented in positions of power because we are just as capable as men, and also think differently. Having a wider perspective is a big advantage if the goal is to find the most effective business solutions.

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Elise O’Connor - Associate, Corporate Services & Tenant Representation

MBRE Women in Commercial Real EstateHow did you end up in commercial real estate?

Luck! I worked with the wife of one of MBRE’s SVPs at another company who heard me cold calling through a wall we shared. When her husband mentioned he was looking for new talent, she encouraged him to reach out to me. Learning the array of opportunities CRE and MBRE had to offer sold me on the job quickly, and I got my brokerage license and joined the company shortly thereafter.

What do you like about MBRE? How has the company helped you develop professionally?

MBRE has a very entrepreneurial spirit that’s in part supported by leadership’s investment in employees and willingness to hear new ideas. I feel comfortable talking to all of MBRE’s executives, and feeling like my company cares about my individual success has helped me develop tremendously, both as a professional and personally.

Why do you think it’s important for women to have a seat at the table?

It is so important for women and minorities to have seats at the table in order for a company to be as dynamic as possible. Technology and the ability to be more connected than ever before is perpetuating change in CRE, and all industries, very quickly. Having a diverse team leads to more creative thinking that ensures companies are adaptable to shifting trends.

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Nicole Ellis-Saine - Controller, Accounting

MBRE Women in Commercial Real EstateHow did you end up in commercial real estate?

At my last job, I showed loft space to potential tenants and realized that I had an interest in real estate. What inspires me most about real estate is its ability to evolve along with new technology and changes in the market. I also enjoy knowing how important an investment real estate is to clients and the difference working with the right company makes.

What do you like about MBRE? How has the company helped you develop professionally?

MBRE offers employees a lot of opportunity for growth, regardless of title or department. For the last 15 years, I’ve worn many different hats and have been able to carve out my own path based on my skills and interests. Not only is their opportunity for growth, but our managers encourage staff to attend workshops and training seminars to further support their professional development.

Why do you think it’s important for women to have a seat at the table?

Women are intelligent, strong, and confident, and shouldn’t be treated as if they don’t have the expertise or wherewithal to be decision makers. Also, you have to bring a mix of viewpoints to the table in order to have a well-rounded strategy. If everyone making the big decisions has similar experiences and opinions, important opportunities may be overlooked.

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Ellen Trager - VP, Leasing Services

MBRE Women in Commercial Real EstateHow did you end up in commercial real estate?

I was a temp at MBRE in 1992 when I first moved to Chicago (it was still Miglin-Beitler at the time), and was hired as a salaried employee a few weeks later. My introduction was a bit incidental, but I’m glad it happened the way it did!

What do you like about MBRE? How has the company helped you develop professionally?

One of MBRE’s biggest advantages is that it’s a smaller company with full-service capabilities. That means that MBRE can effectively accomplish virtually anything a client needs at any scale, while still maintaining a family feel. I’ve really benefitted from having colleagues I’ve known and worked with for years. How close our team is shows through in our communication and the results we deliver.

Why do you think it’s important for women to have a seat at the table?

I think women are naturally great deal-makers. We’re wired to balance the goals of both parties in a transaction and arrive at a mutual win. Although CRE is a male-dominated business, women have a strong instinct for networking, forming relationships, and finding solutions in all phases of the deal process.

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Eileen Flynn - SVP/Chief Financial Officer, Accounting Services

MBRE Women in Commercial Real EstateHow did you end up in commercial real estate?

I developed an interest in commercial real estate by always paying special attention to the city buildings wherever I’ve traveled. As a result, I made a career shift into the industry shortly after graduating.

What do you like about MBRE? How has the company helped you develop professionally?

One thing I noticed very soon after joining MBRE was people’s willingness to put down the phone and meet face-to-face to discuss a particular matter. Having that regular human contact definitely fosters closer relationships.

In terms of professional development, I benefited from MBRE’s commitment to promoting internally. In 2001, I was given the opportunity to move from overseeing finances for MBRE’s asset portfolio to corporate accounting. Despite how different the roles were, MBRE gave me the chance to explore a very new area of accounting.

Why do you think it’s important for women to have a seat at the table?

Well, why not? Including women at all levels, but especially leadership roles, gives companies a more balanced approach to problem solving and decision making. Ideally, whether or not someone is a man or woman wouldn’t matter and employers would focus solely on whether or not an individual is qualified. Hopefully that will one day be the norm.

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Barbra Vidinich - Executive Assistant, Corporate Services/Project Services

MBRE Women in Commercial Real EstateHow did you end up in commercial real estate?

I worked in residential real estate first when a family friend introduced me to CRE, which I found intriguing enough to make a move into. I was partly inspired to make a career change because I’ve always looked at downtown Chicago from the perspective of Marlo Thomas from That Girl. The feeling of awe made me want to be part of the evolution of our city’s skyline.

What do you like about MBRE? How has the company helped you develop professionally?

One of my favorite things about MBRE is that everyone works together within their own teams, and with other teams, instead of competing with one another for business.

Our executives’ level of industry expertise has inspired me to expand my own knowledge of CRE economics, the intricacies of lease administration, and the ins and outs of construction management.

Why do you think it’s important for women to have a seat at the table?

Each member of a team contributes their knowledge, inspiration, and experience. When an industry or firm is heavily weighted by similar viewpoints, the product of their work does not meet its full potential.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

MBRE is a place where everyone is valued and acknowledged for their contributions. I feel truly blessed to work for a company with a culture that is so supportive and encourages people to be their best.

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Karoline Eigel - SVP, Leasing Services/Development

MBRE Women in Commercial Real EstateHow did you end up in commercial real estate?

I landed in commercial real estate after a long run in development brokerage and marketing. Understanding the metamorphosis of new construction condo developments created a natural transition into CRE brokerage and marketing, especially given CRE is ever-evolving into a residential/hospitality service model.

What do you like about MBRE? How has the company helped you develop professionally?

The two things I love about MBRE: the people and the opportunities. The benefit of working for a privately-owned company: the only thing stopping me from growing and succeeding is myself. I can take my career as far as I’d like to with hard work and the support of fantastic people who live and breathe success.

Why do you think it’s important for women to have a seat at the table?

It’s important for women to be in positions of power in any industry. Men and women think, work, articulate, and communicate differently, and this diversity creates balance and increased innovation, productivity and creativity, which leads to more success for everyone.

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Fearon Melton - VP, MBRE Healthcare

MBRE Women in Commercial Real EstateHow did you end up in commercial real estate?

My father was my biggest inspiration. After serving for more than 20 years in the armed forces, he entered the world of real estate by buying single family homes for investment. I always wanted to do what he did, but at the highest level possible, so I tailored my studies and experiences to prepare myself for a long-term career in commercial real estate.

What do you like about MBRE? How has the company helped you develop professionally?

Upon graduation, I wanted to focus my energies at the intersection of real estate and private equity. MBRE Healthcare operates at this very unique niche and has given me the opportunity to work from an equity perspective at the asset level. MBRE also has a very scrappy, hardworking environment that gave me the chance to develop a variety of skills needed in acquisitions, such as valuation and deal structuring.

Why do you think it’s important for women to have a seat at the table?

Men and women have fundamentally different academic and professional experiences that often lead to deep variances in the development of human capital. By incorporating women into positions of power, the CRE industry can access a comprehensive set of human resources that are more fully equipped to problem solve. A diverse perspective leads to stronger returns, more efficient and inclusive team dynamics, and more favorable outcomes for investors. The industry has a lot to gain by enfranchising women in a more meaningful way.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

I joined the healthcare vertical at MBRE when the group was first getting started, and to say we’ve been busy is an understatement. Over the last six years, our group has completed more than $4B in acquisitions. Having been involved from the beginning has allowed me to complete and participate in an extraordinary amount of transactions, which makes for an invaluable experience. The opportunity to do this volume of work is an aspect of my job for which I am extremely grateful.

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Caitlin Ritter - VP, Research & Investment Intelligence

MBRE Women in Commercial Real EstateHow did you end up in commercial real estate?

I love cities, especially Chicago, and want to know as much as possible about what makes cities work (or not work). As a commercial real estate researcher, it’s my job to know everything that is happening in Chicago, and that never gets boring to me.

What do you like about MBRE? How has the company helped you develop professionally?

I love that MBRE’s leaders trust their teams to do their best work without being micro-managed. I never feel like a cog in a giant machine here, and I know that my work matters for the company. I also appreciate MBRE’s strong female leaders like Pat Aluisi and Karoline Eigel who always encourage me to step outside my comfort zone and try new things.

Why do you think it’s important for women to have a seat at the table?

Women have valuable perspectives that have been shut out of commercial real estate, and business in general, for far too long. Limited perspective means missed opportunities.

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Joyce Yang - VP, Marketing

MBRE Women in Commercial Real EstateHow did you end up in commercial real estate?

My background began in marketing for a residential real estate firm, as well as time at a traditional ad agency and a real estate consultancy. A few years ago, I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to move into commercial real estate. Based on my skillset and familiarity with real estate in general, it was a logical career move into an exciting sector of the industry, and I have not regretted it once.

What do you like about MBRE? How has the company helped you develop professionally?

The culture at MBRE is truly exceptional. There is an underlying energy and positive attitude that we all share, and it makes coming to work every day very rewarding. I’m frequently impressed by the teamwork across departments and business units to meet client needs. One of the things I value most about MBRE is that the company has always encouraged professional development above and beyond straightforward skills-based education. There is also a focus on emotional intelligence, self-management, and relationship building. These programs have really helped me improve both professionally and personally.

Why do you think it’s important for women to have a seat at the table?

In business, a diversity of perspectives is always an asset. Having women as key decision-makers in the company, bringing their unique viewpoints, leads to creative problem solving for clients and helps develop strong relationships across the commercial real estate industry. One of the core values of MBRE is providing tailored solutions for our clients, and our success in upholding this principle is due to the diversity of experience and the collaborative nature within the company.

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Suzanne Hendrick - SVP & Managing Director, Asset Management

MBRE Women in Commercial Real EstateHow did you end up in commercial real estate?

I worked as a CPA right after graduation where I was exposed to development accounting during a time when one of my major clients had their new headquarters developed by The John Buck Company. This piqued my interest in CRE, so I made a move into the accounting side at The John Buck Company later in my career.

At John Buck, I was the Asset Controller for the Sears Tower redevelopment. Seeing the day-to-day construction and operations at this iconic asset inspired me to transition from accounting to management. I worked on many challenging assets at John Buck for 15 years and Hines for 7 years. The rest is history!

What do you like about MBRE? How has the company helped you develop professionally?

I love the culture and the people at MBRE. Managing buildings from the portfolio level and guiding the Asset Management division’s overall business goals has allowed for tremendous professional growth. Mentoring and helping others reach their career goals is also an important part of my role that I’m proud to be in a position to do.

Why do you think it’s important for women to have a seat at the table?

Diversity in the workplace needs to be present from top to bottom. There were very few women in positions of power when I started working in the industry. Theresa Mancuso, Jane Rodak, and Vicki Noonan were a few women in senior level positions I really looked up to. Although we’ve definitely made strides in terms of gender equity, there’s room for improvement. A lack of diversity within the workplace holds any industry back from reaching its full potential.

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Learn more about MBRE and our employees here.

 

 


1. DeWolf, M. (2017, March 1). 12 Stats About Working Women | U.S. Department of Labor Blog. Retrieved March 1, 2019, from https://blog.dol.gov/2017/03/01/12-stats-about-working-women

2. Scarborough, W. (2018, February 23). What the Data Says About Women in Management Between 1980 and 2010. Retrieved March 1, 2019, from https://hbr.org/2018/02/what-the-data-says-about-women-in-management-between-1980-and-2010

3. Graf, N., Brown, A., & Patten, E. (2018, April 9). The narrowing, but persistent, gender gap in pay. Retrieved March 1, 2019, from http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2018/04/09/gender-pay-gap-facts

4. Catalyst. (2018, August 23). Quick Take: Women in Male-Dominated Industries and Occupations - Catalyst. Retrieved March 1, 2019, from https://www.catalyst.org/research/women-in-male-dominated-industries-and-occupations

5. CREW Network. (2016, March 29). 2015 Benchmark Study Report: Women in Commercial Real Estate. Retrieved March 1, 2019, from https://crewnetwork.org/getmedia/cb2d4d3b-ce6a-4bbe-85ff-b44ac1354da2/crew-network-benchmark-study-report-women-in-commercial-real-estate-2015.pdf.aspx