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SoCal Power Women: 5 Questions With Central City Association's Jessica Lall

Los Angeles

This limited series profiles SoCal Power Women who have helped shape cities, neighborhoods, businesses and lifestyles in Los Angeles and Orange counties. These women will be honored at Bisnow's SoCal Power Women event Dec. 13.

Central City Association President and CEO Jessica Lall joined the organization in 2016 after it held a nationwide search for a CEO to replace retiring leader Carol Schatz. She represents the interests of 400 businesses, trade associations and nonprofit organizations in Los Angeles County. Before joining CCA, she was executive director of the South Park Business Improvement District in downtown Los Angeles and prior to that served as senior policy director in the Economic Business Policy department for former Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

Central City Association President and CEO Jessica Lall with her husband, Luke O’Dea

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

Lall: I lead Central City Association, a membership-based advocacy organization that works to enhance the vibrancy of Downtown LA and increase investment in the region. I work closely with our diverse group of 400 member organizations, which ranges from real estate developers to cultural/educational institutions to entertainment and more. CCA works with our members to help solve their issues and bridge the gap between them and the public sector. More broadly, we advocate on policy issues — housing, homelessness, transportation and livability. I use our organization’s convening power to build coalitions and strong partnerships to help bring creative solutions to our region’s problems.

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

Lall: One of the most important issues CCA works on is homelessness. A humanitarian crisis of this magnitude cannot be solved by one organization or with one viewpoint. We convened people from diverse industries and built a coalition that went beyond our usual suspects to advocate for our joint position. We also knew that each industry has an expertise that could help solve the issue. We worked with our members and figured out what expertise they could apply. For example, we worked with CBRE to help identify sites for homeless housing and Gensler to develop innovative designs for this housing.

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

Lall: It starts with being intentional in your own workplace, and encouraging others to do the same.

  • When hiring, make sure to interview a diverse set of candidates. If you’re having trouble finding candidates, look at your recruiting process and the job description.
  • Have both men and women audit your company policies to ensure they serve all employees.
  • Mentor women to negotiate and ask for more money early on. Wage inequality starts very early — women often lowball their value early in their career and then have to play catch-up.
  • Evaluate if there is a wage gap in your own workplace and be intentional on closing it.

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

Lall: Relationships are everything — nurture them and always treat everyone you meet with respect. If you can help someone, make a point to do so.

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

Lall: I value restorative time. I follow the philosophy that “you can’t turn on if you don’t turn off” and try to disconnect when I’m able to and encourage my team to do the same. When I can unwind, I enjoy traveling and being active, whether it’s scuba diving, skiing, yoga, biking or hiking.

Meet Central City Association President and CEO Jessica Lall at Bisnow's SoCal Power Women event Dec. 13 at the LA Grand Hotel Downtown.