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Molly McShane's Immediate Goal As NAIOP Chicago President: Diversify The Ranks


Conor Commercial Real Estate Chief Investment Officer Molly McShane made history last month by being the first woman named board president of the NAIOP Chicago chapter.

McShane's immediate goal is to highlight the diversity of commercial real estate professionals, and she intends to do so by finding women and people of color to speak at the organization's monthly breakfast panels.

NAIOP Chicago
Concor Commercial Real Estate Chief Investment Officer Molly McShane

McShane said it is important to highlight the diversity on these panels as they serve to attract new members. NAIOP Chicago's membership reached an all-time high of over 600 members last year, but the diversity problems within commercial real estate are keeping women and minorities from pursuing careers in the industry.

"I think an important reason for increasing diversity on our panels is putting forth visible role models within the industry. Making sure that women and people of color are recognized for their expertise and success can make a big impact on whether or not young students can imagine themselves in this industry. And we are only going to make this a more diverse industry by attracting those young people into it," McShane said.

McShane said adding diversity to NAIOP's breakfast panels will be a gradual process. The chapter's board members are all connected to Chicago real estate's biggest firms and are working to identify people who make good speakers, and their specialties.

"We want the right people on the panels and diversity is layered on top of that," McShane said.

Molly McShane and family
Conor Commercial Real Estate Chief Investment Officer Molly McShane with her husband, George Schaefer, and daughters, Caitlin and Megan.

McShane is also drawing on her personal experiences in the industry, moving from being a single working woman to a working mother, in her push for more diversity on NAIOP's panels.

"As a society, the workplace has not caught up to the progressions we’ve seen as a culture. There are women in [the] workforce, two-income families have been in place for a while. But the systems in place were created in a different time when men were seen as the primary earner. We have not adapted to these changes as quickly as we should," McShane said.

McShane is a second-generation Chicago real estate professional. Her father, Jim McShane, founded McShane Cos.; Conor Commercial Real Estate is the development arm of the corporation. McShane said her father did not steer her into a career in real estate, although as a child he would drive her through sites he was developing en route to school functions and family obligations.

It was not until McShane started working for her father as an adult that she fully understood the business and learned to enjoy it. She started in construction because she felt she needed that foundation of knowledge to be involved in real estate development, and she worked in construction for nearly five years before she switched to development.

"I like the development side. It's a very creative process where can make many decisions on your own. Every new deal is a new business where you can have your fingerprints on every step," McShane said.