Meet 6 Women Changing The Face Of CRE In Dallas
As part of our women in commercial real estate coverage for Women's History Month, we spoke with six Dallas women who've carved out successful careers for themselves, and have a lot to share with others—men and women—about the climb to the top and what to do once you get there.
The E Smith Realty leadership team consists of three women: CEO and co-founder Sharon Morrison, co-founder Tamela Thornton and managing director Susan Arledge. Sharon and Tamela were friends at Transwestern when they had a vision to start a new company. Another friend, Emmitt Smith, already had a brand and a business plan. They decided to join him in what became E Smith Realty.
Women in commercial real estate are becoming less unusual, Susan says. She notes that she often sees women tenants signing leases, but it's less common to see a woman on the investment side.
Tamela points out that there are more women with graduate degrees than men, and smart, capable employees with a good education are what employers are looking for. Women have always known that they had to take care of themselves, and they’ve always known the importance of a safety net, she says. Commercial real estate is a good choice for women who want to take hold of their own future.
Women should not be afraid to pursue their vision, Sharon says. Tamela has a similar message. She says if you know you’re smart, and you have the tools to do your job, jump in with both feet.
When she was just starting out, Susan had a message taped to her phone so she saw it every day. The note said: “Successful people form the habits of doing what unsuccessful people don’t do.”
Colliers EVP Mary Stoner (shown on the left) broke into the business by accident. She took a support position at The Baldwin Co, which later became Colliers International, and started to learn about commercial real estate. She notes that all the other women in the office were also in support roles. The brokers were male.
After a few years, with her new real estate license in hand, she took a job at The Fults Co, where a mentor taught her the rep side of the business. She grabbed the opportunity and ran. Mary’s parents always insisted she could do anything she wanted if she worked hard and set her mind to it, a lesson she’s kept with her.
There are more women in commercial real estate today than ever, and Mary (second row in red) says she's thrilled to see so many women choosing this career. Like other women have noted, she advises that if you can’t go directly into production, take a support role to get your foot in the door. Work really hard and look for opportunities to advance. Do more than your job requires and you will get noticed, Mary says.
One barrier to a career in commercial real estate is that women might not choose a straight commission-based career. But women do have an advantage: they’re better at building relationships that can be very beneficial and last throughout their careers. She notes that most companies allow flexible hours in order to accommodate those with young families.
The old boy’s network still exists, but Mary (here with her hubby in Italy) says women are smart enough to play up their strengths and advance in their own way. She believes it’s only an issue if you allow it to be. Another word of advice: never let anyone tell you what you can and can’t do in this business.
She says for women who want to get ahead, work harder and smarter than your peers. Pay your dues and work long hours—there's no other option if you want to succeed. Find a great mentor and add value to that relationship because it's not a one-way street. Don’t whine. You are in charge of your career path, nobody else.
Younger Partners co-managing partner Kathy Permenter (center) found her way into commercial real estate after two years as a tax accountant at Arthur Andersen. She didn’t enjoy the work and wondered if this is what being an adult was all about. (Fortunately, her dad told her definitely not.) That led her to grad school for an MBA at SMU. (Fun fact: She was in the same class as Bisnow Power Woman Kim Butler with Hall Financial Group.)
It was during an on-campus job interview that someone suggested she look into commercial real estate. Kathy landed her first CRE job at Trammell Crow. At the time, she tells us, there were few women working industrial or office deals, so she was steered into retail leasing. She fell in love with the work and knew she found her niche, she tells us.
After having twin boys in 1994, she took a seven-year hiatus to stay home with them. Around 2001, she started asking around and found her way to the office side of the industry at Stream before landing at Grubb & Ellis with Younger Partners co-managing partner Moody Younger. Kathy (far right) says the business is tough and the hours are long, but she enjoys the social side and the relationships formed. She’s not all work and no play; she’s spending spring break in Costa Rica with her two sons, who are now juniors at TCU.
Goodwin Commercial CEO Pam Goodwin says she definitely experienced the old boy’s network early on, but she proved herself. She wants to encourage women to get into commercial real estate because many don’t even realize it’s an option, though it is starting to open up. She notes that women are around commercial real estate every single day, yet something—often fear—holds them back. Fear of losing money, fear of the unknown. She wants to get women out of that mindset and encourage them to invest.
Dallas is a great place to launch a commercial real estate career, too, she says. There are no mountains or oceans, so the people care about making Dallas itself fun, livable and exciting.