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How A ‘Shero’ Is Helping To Usher In The Next Generation Of Women Leaders In Commercial Real Estate

The McShane Cos. CEO Molly McShane

The effort to put more women in executive leadership roles in commercial real estate continues to be an uphill climb.

Women leaders in the construction, real estate and financial sectors are among the most underrepresented of any industries studied in the World Economic Forum’s latest gender gap report. Separately, the Commercial Real Estate Women Network, which works to accelerate success for women in commercial real estate, estimated that women make up just 9% of all C-suite executives in the industry while accounting for 36% of employees.

Female industry leaders like Molly McShane, CEO of The McShane Cos., a nationwide real estate developer and construction firm, want to close the gender gap. 

The Goldie Initiative prepares women to advance as leaders in their CRE careers by providing professional and financial support. Each year, the organization honors female CRE leaders with its Shero award, which highlights their achievements in the industry as well as how they are creating a blueprint for others to succeed.

McShane is this year’s Shero award honoree due to her outstanding professional achievements, her unmatched commitment to mentoring future CRE leaders and her work molding corporate culture to be more inclusive, allowing women to thrive and succeed. 

McShane wants to continue to guide women in CRE and help them advance even further. 

“The Shero award is a great honor, and I will be in great company with other incredible female leaders, but what I love most is the opportunity to get to know so many of this year’s scholarship winners,” McShane said. “They are the future leaders in this industry, and I am grateful for the opportunity to make a positive impact on their career development.” 

Molly McShane at a Goldie Initiative event with her mentee, Marissa Rose of Avison Young.

McShane said she feels lucky to have benefited from those who paved the way for her and wants to pay it forward through The Goldie Initiative and other organizations that support and inspire more women in construction to take on leadership roles. 

She leads the second-largest female-owned and led business in the Chicago area and one of the largest construction firms nationwide. The McShane Cos. has 11 offices across the country, earning more than $1B annually.

McShane wants to show that while CRE is a traditionally male-dominated industry, women can be just as successful in executive roles. 

With 20 years of experience in a variety of roles in construction and real estate, McShane has gained perspective on how to be successful. She said she knows the value of each person on the team and how their roles can contribute to the whole, adding she has built a thriving and sustainable business and gotten the best out of her employees by fostering a strong culture and keeping them happy. 

McShane also attributes her success to being a fly on the wall, learning from great leaders and applying that knowledge to her company.

“The leaders who are most successful lead by example and establish trust with their employees, customers and in the marketplace,” McShane said. “I’ve put trust at the center of my leadership style and with my team, and I’ve spent the last few years communicating our company values and emphasizing the need to be consistent in their application.”

This emphasis on core values allows her to avoid compromising her firm’s culture for financial gain, allowing the decades-old brand to sustain itself, she said. 

McShane was president of the Chicago chapter of the National Association of Industrial and Office Properties in 2018 and is the incoming chair of Urban Land Institute Chicago this year. These organizations help bring people together to tackle industrywide challenges like better female representation in CRE, McShane said. She said she has been able to learn from her peers in these groups, gaining valuable perspectives that have allowed her to grow in the industry. 

McShane presents an award to her mentee, Marissa Rose, with Goldie B. Wolfe Miller and Steve Madden.

Strong networks can help close the diversity gap, allowing more women to be successful in CRE, McShane said. 

“I think women taking on leadership positions in professional organizations is more important now than ever,” she said. “It provides key networking and mentoring opportunities that augment what they’ll find within their own companies.” 

McShane credits her values-centric approach for helping everyone in her company get on the same page and building a foundation for long-lasting, sustainable growth. While her company features a diverse group of people, they all share values of integrity, professionalism and relationships, which are central to its culture and bottom line, she said.

“Our business relationships are based on trust, which can’t be built without a consistent adherence to a set of values,” McShane said. “Clients, employees and the marketplace at large know that they can expect these values from anyone representing McShane because we all rely on them in both major business strategy and day-to-day decision-making.” 

Being a Shero allows McShane to be an example of values-centric leadership. When a company is led by its values, the rules of the playing field are clear and barriers to success can be addressed and removed, she said.

McShane encourages young women professionals who want to advance in CRE to stay humble by listening and learning from others around them and to remain curious by not being afraid to ask questions and approaching life with a growth mindset. 

“Put in the time and work to grow and maintain trusting relationships,” McShane said. “Share your ideas and help others, even when you will never get anything in return. Know your own core values and find a company that aligns with them, which will make your career all the more rewarding.”

Join The Goldie Initiative on Sept. 19 at Union Station in Chicago for its eighth annual Goldie Gala, honoring Molly McShane. Tickets are available now at  

This article was produced in collaboration between Studio B and The Goldie Initiative. Bisnow news staff was not involved in the production of this content.

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