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OC Power Women: 5 Questions With Chapman's Linda Padilla-Smyth

Want to get a jump-start on upcoming deals? Meet the major Orange County players at one of our upcoming events!

This limited series profiles Orange County Power Women who have helped shape SoCal cities, neighborhoods, businesses and lifestyles. These women will be honored at Bisnow's Orange County Power Women event Aug. 21 in Irvine.

Know your value, Linda Padilla-Smyth said. 

As Chapman University's executive director of real estate and property management, Padilla-Smyth has purchased and closed more than $200M worth of property.

Growing up in Colorado, she shoveled snow in the winters and worked as a landscaper during the summers. In college, she worked as a nanny, housekeeper and accounting clerk.

Chapman Executive Director of Real Estate and Property Management Linda Padilla-Smyth
Chapman Executive Director of Real Estate and Property Management Linda Padilla-Smyth

Because of her upbringing, she was never afraid of gender inequality or a wage gap in commercial real estate.

"I knew that I would have to work harder and longer to overcome being a woman of color and just being a woman," she said. 

When it came to applying for a job, she believed in hard work and that her work ethic would be rewarded.

"I requested my value to be rewarded by my actions," she said. "Employers who chose to ignore my requests, and I had many, I moved on from. Employers who valued my requests, I worked hard to improve their business, as if it was my own."

She said more doors are being opened to women today because of the women who paved the way in the 1980s and 1990s for wage and gender equality.

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

Padilla-Smyth: My job at Chapman University is a unique blend of “all things” real estate. As the corporate real estate officer for Chapman University, it is my job to buy, sell, analyze, invest, lease, bill, maintain and develop all non-university-use real estate assets. I utilize my law degree to analyze development and use issues and my finance background to analyze problems. It is a unique application blend of my training, skills and abilities. I think of myself as a cross-mixture between the Property Brothers and Suze Orman, all in one person. I love to build, design and develop, but I also love to crunch numbers and project returns on investments.

Bisnow: What accomplishment are you most proud of in your career and how did you achieve it?

Padilla-Smyth: My most noteworthy accomplishment is using my networking contacts and skills to improve the lives of other women striving in the world of commercial real estate. Giving back to others is my true passion, which I do through many venues: serving as SPIRE (Superior Performance in Real Estate) chair and serving as the current president of CREW-OC (Commercial Real Estate Women). I devote myself to lifting up other women through the SPIRE Awards. I personally challenge myself to nominate at least three professional women a year for awards. I look for other award ceremonies and opportunities to lift up women. As the CREW-OC president, I am proud to say we have expanded professional development trainings for our members under my tenure.

Bisnow: How have you seen companies change the way they address wage and gender inequality in recent years?

Padilla-Smyth: At Chapman University, our leadership is committed to diversity and inclusion. I feel proud to represent Chapman University as a Latina and as a leader under our Facilities Management umbrella. I function in a nontraditional role for women in a male-dominated department, but it is amazing to work alongside our many talented tradesmen/women. I grew up in Colorado shoveling snow in the winters and doing landscaping in the summer. I worked my way through college as a nanny, housekeeper, accounting clerk, etc. I see that because of my unique upbringing, I was never afraid of gender inequality or a wage gap. I knew that I would have to work harder and longer to overcome being a woman of color and just being a woman. However, I knew my value, and therefore I requested my value to be rewarded by my actions. Employers who chose to ignore my requests (and I had many), I moved on from. Employers who valued my requests, I worked hard to improve their business, as if it was my own. Today, I see more doors being opened for others because those of us who fought in the 1980s and 1990s for wage and gender equality. I feel encouraged by the path I see commercial real estate going.

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

Padilla-Smyth: Be true to your unique self. There is only one of you, you do not have to fit the mold to make a difference. Learn from every situation, good and bad. Do not let anyone tell you your value; you can decide your own worth. Always be a champion to, and for, others. You will be surprised at how fulfilled that will make you.

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

Padilla-Smyth: I am one of those people who unwind by doing what I feel passionate about in my free time. Currently, I serve on the McCoy Rigby Conservatory of the Arts board. My children (Natalia, age 14, and Ariana, age 12) love performing arts, so every summer they participate in the performing arts program there. I love what they do with low-income and disabled kids, so I devote myself to raising money for the Conservatory all year long. I am blessed to have become close friends with Tom McCoy and Cathy Rigby-McCoy (yes folks, the Olympic medalist/Tony Award winner). I have learned so much from them on how to use your talents to bring joy to others. I also devote myself to serving in the pre-teen and junior high ministries for the Orange County Church of Christ. Growing up, I was a troubled teen, and I love sharing my story of hope, love and laughter with these kids. I really have a special place in my heart for teenagers. I believe I am called to give back to kids; serving through the Conservatory and church are my way to do that.

Meet Chapman Executive Director of Real Estate and Property Management Linda Padilla-Smyth at Bisnow's Orange County Power Women event Aug. 21 at the Irvine Marriott in Irvine.