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The Fight For Gender Equality Includes Men, Too


After Goldie B. Wolfe Miller sold her company, which at the time was the largest woman-owned commercial brokerage in the U.S., she turned her attention toward a new challenge: creating career resources for women in commercial real estate.

In 2007, The Goldie Initiative was born, creating a scholarship, mentorship and leadership program for women in CRE to get to the corner office. Ten years later, commercial real estate continues to be male-dominated, and women in CRE still earn 23% less than their male counterparts, according to CREW Network, compared to a 19.5% gap across all U.S. industries, Business Insider reported.

But foundations like The Goldie Initiative work to bridge that gap by giving highly successful women opportunities to network and advise other women with leadership potential.

Beyond creating a space for women leaders to come together, The Goldie Initiative’s mission includes inviting male allies into the conversation and encouraging them to get involved in creating equal working opportunities for everyone. Few men believe there is gender bias in the workplace, Fairygodboss reported, and far fewer believe their female colleagues are being treated unfairly. Involvement in programs like The Goldie Initiative helps change that perception.

“There has been the question of: Do we have any male mentors?” Goldie Initiative Executive Director Megan Abraham said. “While we currently don’t within the formal program, we actively involve men in The Goldie Initiative and incorporate male allies in an informal way. They have wives, daughters and feel strongly about women having equal footing.”

Wolfe Miller launched The Goldie Initiative as a way to prepare women for senior leadership roles in all sectors of CRE. This started as a scholarship program for graduate students at Roosevelt University’s Marshall Bennett Institute of Commercial Real Estate and later expanded into an independent 501(c)3 charitable foundation. The foundation provides financial assistance and matches participants, called Goldie Scholars, with a personal mentor who is an experienced senior real estate professional. Mentors are selected for their ability to serve as role models, their experience as women navigating the industry and their specific expertise in an area.   

The mentorship program, through which Goldie Scholars can not only gain career advancement opportunity but also a lifelong confidante, has quickly become The Goldie Initiative’s most popular offering.

“The most positive feedback we receive is about the personalized mentor program," Abraham said. "Yes, the tuition assistance is helpful, but it can’t compare to a mentor that helps the scholars advance, develop their leadership skills and get jobs while navigating a male-dominated industry.”

The Goldie Initiative President Steve Madden at Wrigley Field with several Goldie Scholars.

While the formal mentorship program is reserved for women leaders, the foundation continues to seek and find ways for men to get involved. As president of the board of The Goldie Initiative, Steve Madden, who is also president and CEO of Libertyville Bank & Trust, A Wintrust Community Bank, regularly hosts lunches with Goldie Scholars. At these functions, they can network and discuss challenges and opportunities in the industry. Madden first became involved in the program when Wolfe Miller expanded the board to include male members.

“Being the husband of a professional working mom and the father of a 15-year-old daughter who will soon be venturing off herself to college, I wanted to participate and make a difference with a cause that ensures the playing field is as level for my daughter and others as it was for me,” Madden said.

Being a male ally involves active participation in discussions about equality and creating environments where female colleagues can be heard and given the opportunity to advance professionally. In that fashion, Madden decided to change up the format of the lunches this month by inviting the Goldie Scholars to attend a Chicago Cubs game at Wrigley Field. By bringing Goldie Scholars to the baseball game, Madden is helping to bring inclusiveness to an after-work activity historically exclusive to men.

While a cliché, sports outings like golf where men close deals almost entirely with other men is a reality for many women in the workplace. Even women with golfing experience are unlikely to receive an invitation, Fortune reported. After-work networking opportunities like Madden’s help break down those barriers and teaches the Goldie Scholars how to entertain clients and network at similar events.

“It really is about building relationships and spending time outside of the office with folks for two to three hours, and it certainly helps in a big way,” Madden said. "It’s something you won’t learn in a classroom.”

Madden’s outings are just one of the ways male allies have participated in The Goldie Initiative. Last year, the program celebrated its 10-year anniversary with a gala. Goldie Scholars, mentors, allies and members of the CRE community came out in support, and the event attracted over 500 participants and raised over $300K. For Wolfe Miller, it was a "networking event on steroids," and it was so successful that The Goldie Initiative will hold it again on Sept. 13.

The success of the gala highlights that more people are aware of the need for gender equality in the business world. RETS Associates reports, for example, that companies with gender parity experience a 34% higher total return to shareholders than those that don't.

“A big part of the pitch we make to folks to consider sponsoring the initiative is that this is good business,” Madden said. “It makes sense. Why wouldn’t you include high-achieving women in events like this? Why wouldn’t you, given the chance, if you have talented, high-performing women, give them the same chance as high-performing young men?”

This feature was produced in collaboration between Bisnow Branded Content and The Goldie Initiative. Bisnow news staff was not involved in the production of this content.