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Denver Power Women: 5 Questions With McWhinney's Ashley Stiles

This limited series profiles Power Women who have helped shape metro Denver's cities, neighborhoods, businesses and lifestyles. These women will be honored at Bisnow's Denver Power Women event on Dec. 5.

McWhinney Vice President of Development Ashley Stiles oversees development from procurement to completion for the company’s northern Colorado projects. She is responsible for sourcing, vetting, competing for, procuring and overseeing all new northern Colorado development projects. She supervises all aspects of project management from client relationships and prospects to contract and budget oversight and community involvement. During her 15 years in the industry, Stiles has developed between $30M and $40M of heavy and light industrial, residential mixed-use and open-space projects.

McWhinney VP of Development Ashley Stiles said asking for help shouldn't be considered a sign of weakness.

Bisnow: How do you describe your job to people who are not in the industry?

Stiles: I always start by saying that I am responsible for developing new commercial real estate projects from beginning to end. I develop the market and financial models, oversee the design and construction and find tenants to occupy the spaces. What that really means is that I manage relationships all day, every day. Internally and externally. We all prefer to work with people we know, who we like and those whom we trust; identifying and aligning with the right people is critical to what I do.   

Bisnow: What is the biggest business problem you have faced and how did you solve it?

Stiles: I could talk about a difficult deal or business issue, but I have spent the most time and energy trying to become a better leader. Our industry, like many others, lacks women in senior positions; I hope to be part of changing that. I have focused on developing more self-awareness, empathy and gaining understanding of others' communication styles. It can be challenging to ask for help in any of these or in day-to-day operations because we fear it will be perceived as weakness. I have surrounded myself with other great leaders, men and women, to be a mirror for my shortcomings, to encourage my growth and provide insight into the paths they have traveled. This choice has been critical in my success professionally and personally. 

Bisnow: What is one thing you think companies can do to address wage and gender inequality?

Stiles: That’s easy — just do it. Every CEO has the ability to correct this in their organizations. They can require that every team member functioning within a role, regardless of gender, is compensated the same. Several companies are already doing this: Apple, Starbucks, Adobe, Salesforce and many others. The gap doesn’t end at hiring though. Women and minorities are less likely to ask for a raise or promotion, which adds to the inequality of pay over time. Promotion flagging and other proactive tools can help offset this disparity.  

Bisnow: What piece of advice do you give others entering the industry?

Stiles: You know what you are good at — that’s the easy part. Being honest and humble about having areas of weakness and aligning yourself with people who care about you and your success is where true leaders are formed. “To share your weakness is to make yourself vulnerable; to make yourself vulnerable is to show your strength.” (Criss Jami) Be strong. Stay true to your convictions. Know what your deal-breakers are. A good fit is more than filling a need within an organization or a specific role; the organization also needs to align with what you value. It goes both ways. 

Bisnow: What do you do to unwind when you’re not working?

Stiles: Art. Peloton. Wine. In that order. I have been lucky enough to have a studio in my home for the last 20 years, and spend a lot of my free time creating pieces. My physical health is directly tied to my mental health and balance. I am absolutely addicted to my Peloton bike, buy one — you won’t regret it! And last, but not least good wine and time with family and friends is priceless. Time is our most precious resource. Use it wisely. The picture included is in front of two pieces recently completed that told the history of McWhinney.

Meet McWhinney Vice President of Development Ashley Stiles at Bisnow's Power Women event Dec. 5 in Denver.