The Leader Magazine

JUN 2018

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F E A T U R E A R T I C L E But could there be room for greater diversity in CRE? The answer is an unequivocal yes. Giving a nod back to mentorship, Akbari says, "I think it really falls into the lap of the people who have been in the profession for a while to seek out and find and nurture those (underrepresented) individuals and bring them into the profession." Karen Ellzey, executive managing director at CBRE, says, "Increasing diversity in CRE isn't 'someone else's job.' It's each of our jobs, and something we should take seriously, approach systematically and hold ourselves accountable for." Ellzey is somewhat of a renaissance woman, balancing her work life with an impressive array of athletic and artistic pastimes – tennis, piano, composing, drawing, painting and writing. She says, "I don't have much time for these, but feel strongly that it helps to give the 'right brain' a good workout from time to time. I'm also very interested in providing educational, arts and culture opportunities for underserved populations." Noticing a pattern? It seems those with great success have a deeply altruistic side, proving that one need not always claw her way to the top, which male-dominated corporate life would sometimes have us believe. Maureen Mao, executive director at DBS Bank in China, notes that even early in her career she hasn't seen much gender inequality in her region. She says, "It's different maybe in aerospace or the Marines, where the dominant gender is male, but for CRE, I don't think we have those kinds of differences between men and women." For holidays, Mao enjoys traveling the world. She has a collection of magnets from abroad that she keeps on her refrigerator. She laughs, "It's almost full." But despite her love of global travel, she was genuinely surprised to hear that we face such gender inequality issues in other parts of the world. t he movement that's making history With the #MeToo movement gaining worldwide traction, now seems as opportune a time as ever for women to make long career strides. Kaiser says the movement is providing a platform for women to speak up. "We don't speak up as often as men do," she says, "So I think this particular movement has given a bit of 'oomph' to that, to make people feel a little less uncomfortable with being able to have a conversation." Mamwa adds that all the talk needs to be backed by policy around gender equity. Without action, the movement will not lead to lasting change. With such a powerful movement, one would think that women would be banding together in a sisterhood to trump all sisterhoods. But when asked whether women generally support other women, the feedback was mixed, many offering they could see two sides of the coin. Ellzey describes the phenomenon best, saying, "I do believe women support other women, but it is not consistent. When women do not support other women, I believe it may stem from lack of confidence, and a fear that 'lighting someone else's candle' will cause her own to glow less brightly. The paradox, of course, is that the mark of a true leader is someone who identifies, cultivates, and develops other leaders. When we reach a point where all women understand that supporting other women doesn't diminish their candle and, in fact, likely makes their own candle glow more brightly – we will all benefit as a result." Mao's response? She laughs and says, "Yes, why not? As long as you have justification for a strong position to support others, I think we usually do (support one another) as professional women." Regardless of gender, the general consensus is that support can be gained through role models who offer a challenge and room for growth. Mamwa says, "When I think about my professional career, people who have supported me have been very frank with me about the areas where I need to develop. And I don't feel injured about 'Why did they say this? Are they saying this because I'm a woman?' No. They were really frank, open, objective in terms of the feedback they were giving me to enable me to grow." Along similar lines, Laden notes, "I have been extremely fortunate to have had some amazing managers, men and women. Even though I didn't think all of them were amazing at the time, in hindsight it's now clear that working with the toughest ones was when I achieved my greatest growth. Why? Because they were investing in me and challenging me, and I appreciate that now." Preparing for change Asked if she sees a recent change in the demographic of CRE, Laden says, "My gauge is not scientific or data-driven but rather a simple question: 'Am I the only woman in the meeting?' The answer early in my career typically was yes. But today, that gap has narrowed." Fulbright states, "When I was asked to lead the real estate team at GE, my first leadership role in CRE, I was worried about acceptance. I was the female boss of mostly men who had more experience than me. Would they follow me as a leader? What if the team fell apart because of the leadership change? It can be scary for women to step into a mostly male profession. What would have happened to me if I said no? I know personally I would have lost a fantastic development opportunity. But change won't happen unless we start. And 20 June 2018 the leader Ellzey Mao

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