NEW YORK—The proliferation of commercial real estate technology has increased the ranks of women leaders in a historically male-dominated field. In climbing the corporate ladder and launching new ventures, women are strategizing and building alliances to carve out their own equity in CRE tech, according to a CREtech panel called WX in New York.
Relationships in CRE are key, but defining those relationships are of greater importance for women seeking actionable insight into navigating the intersection of real estate and technology, according to panel moderator Maureen Waters, president at Ten-X Commercial.
Allies can take various forms, notably as a mentor or sponsor, which can serve specific purposes. For instance, women who have a difficult time asserting themselves in an underrepresented space, having a sponsor to vouch for your perspective makes a difference in how it is received, said Nikki Greenberg, founder of Women in PropTech.
“When you’re usually the quietest person in a room, and you do speak up, you will have trouble getting attention,” Greenberg said. “You need someone to back you up to say ‘that’s the person to listen to.’”
Sponsorship is crucial, said Gabrielle McMillan, CEO at Equiem. These allies may not be a mentor, but can push you for promotion and to earn more money, she added. Sara Shank, head of portfolio management at Beacon Capital Partners, second that point. She urged the audience to distinguish those relationships early, “they can push you forward,” she said.
Mentors can provide incredible insight, especially assisting in the achievement of career milestones. However, establishing those relationships take work and could pose challenges to develop. Mentorship programs are helpful in that regard, according to Pam Swidler, head of real estate transactions and special counsel at WeWork.
The goal is to build “organic relationships that feel authentic to you,” Swidler said to the audience. Greenberg suggested to think about how the mentor and mentee relationship can mutually benefit both parties, so that it is an exchange, which establishes mutual respect.
From a mentor perspective, Caren Maio, CEO and founder of Nestio, said it’s good to concretely express professional needs in mentor and sponsor conversations. She finds that authenticity is well received. “Do what feels good to you, what comes naturally. Authenticity is important,” said Maio.
To continue the movement of diversifying the CRE tech space, it’s not only important to seek out allies but to recognize individual power and spotlight the strengths of professionals who have less influence, said Greenberg, to which the panel echoed. “If you have the power to put someone in a position to shine, do it,” she said. “People in the background offer great support – they are key.”
Women in PropTech added a new category to honor women in CRE tech who are behind the scenes and making an impact. The category is titled “Unsung Hero.”
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