Power Women To New CRE Recruits: Create The Job You Want
For women starting out in commercial real estate, Cherie Ong has a message: Do it your way.
“If women actually figure out how to actually not compromise, then they do create the environment that's ideal for them,” Ong, the co-founder of Good Places, told a packed house Thursday at Bisnow's Atlanta Power Women event. "I think there's too much pressure for women to kind of follow the path of men. And I think that's hard.”
Ong was among a roster of women who are veterans of Atlanta commercial real estate and have risen to the top of the industry while juggling everything from family obligations to the inherent disadvantages of toiling in a male-dominated industry. These Power Women were honored by Bisnow for their accomplishments.
Colliers International Senior Vice President Jodi Selvey forged her own path as her children were growing up, insisting to her employers that she goes home every day at 3 p.m. to greet her then-school-aged children at the bus stop.
"The chairman of our company looked at me and said, 'That's exactly where you need to be,'” Selvey said. “If you're talented, they're going to work the job around you.”
TriStar founder Margaret Stagmeier has made a habit out of one of her concessions: Every Friday for the past 20 years, she makes time to have lunch with her husband.
Here are other lessons Bisnow's 2018 Atlanta Power women gave to the hundreds in the audience Thursday morning.
Find a mentor and network like crazy
It is what worked for Bridge Investment Managing Director Tina Renee McCall when she launched her career as a property appraiser in 1998 after graduating from the University of Georgia with an agricultural degree. She was paired with a veteran appraiser, who agreed to show her the ropes of the business and introduce her around in exchange for being willing and eager to learn and work.
“Little did I know he was teaching me more than the basics. He was teaching me to be a good leader and good mentor,” McCall said. “Without a Richard in my back pocket, I didn't have anyone to volunteer to open those doors for me.”
Be prepared before sitting at the negotiation table
“You have to know your facts and just don't fly by the seat of your pants,” Juneau Construction Co. CEO Nancy Juneau said.
Women need to stand up for themselves and their work and push for things like new assignments, contracts, raises, bonuses or concessions on the job. But be sure the facts behind you support those requests, Juneau said.
“If I don't know my shit, I'm screwed,” she said. "Especially with a bunch of men, they're looking at me like, 'I got her.'"
Take risks, especially while you're young
“The younger the better, because if you mess up at 23 or 25 then it doesn't matter,” Selvey said. "When you're 43 or 45, you got … little ankle-biters looking for food."
Ong said having strong networks behind you can act as a net when taking a risk. And that network will allow a woman to take multiple risks.
“The point of taking risks is you take the risk and if it goes sideways, you take another risk,” she said.
Even toxic workplaces can teach a woman something, TriStar founder Margaret Stagmeier said. Just strive to do your best at the job and move on.
“Places aren't your places forever. Maybe this is your place for five years or 10 years or 30 years,” Westside Future Fund Managing Director Cheryl Thomas Strickland said. “It doesn't feel like risk. It feels like a journey.”