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When It Comes To Decision-Making, This CRE Giant Makes Women A Priority

Primestor Development Director of Leasing Rosa De Luna never paid much attention to the makeup of her company's board of directors. 

To her, every month when she sits down and sees the other three women board members of Primestor, it feels natural, she said. "It's very exciting," De Luna said. "There's a lot of collaboration and we all work well together."

Primestor Managing Director of Leasing and board member Rosa De Luna

But she also knows that many commercial real estate companies aren't like Primestor. Not many companies, private or public, have a board of directors that is predominantly female.

So when a new California law kicked in this year requiring public companies based in the state to have at least one woman director on their board, she said it was a "really big step forward." She said many women professionals often either work behind the scenes or don't get credit for their work.

"It's a great move," De Luna said of California's new law. "It's always good to get the thoughts and opinions of people from different backgrounds, and women bring a lot to the table. To have a seat at the table, share opinions and ideas and also contributing to the decision-making process is really important."

Passed by former Gov. Jerry Brown in 2018, SB 826 requires all publicly held companies based in the state to have at least one woman on its board of directors by 2020. By 2021, companies with five boards members must have two women on the board, and three women directors if the board has six or more members.

Companies that are not compliant faces a $100K to $300K fine. Thus far, about 96% of publicly held companies in the state are conforming to the law, according to a study by KPMG, a massive leap from the only 29% that had female board members as of June 30, 2018.

While some CRE companies lag behind in promoting women, Primestor CEO Arturo Sneider said he believed it was important to have women on the company's board of directors. Sneider said he wanted his board to be a reflection of the urban and Latinx community they operate in.


Founded in 1992 in Los Angeles, Primestor is a privately owned, family operated company that has grown to command a real estate portfolio worth more than $750M, and which manages more than 3.5M SF of retail properties in four states. The Culver City-based commercial real estate company specializes in developing and managing retail properties.

Primestor's board of directors are majority Latinx and women. The seven-member board of directors has four women and three men. 

"From an industry perspective, we believe that having a board that has a much closer representation of everyday life, and have life experiences and life philosophy that comes into a boardroom to make critical decisions is best done when it is closely aligned with the population [that we serve]," Sneider said. 

Though Primestor is a privately owned and operated company, Sneider said all companies should have women leaders and decision-makers. "The fact that government [had] to take the action, it just shows how our industry is slow to adapt and change," he said.

In retail, even though male spending is up, he said women make up most of the industry's spending decisions. "So why wouldn't we have women on our board?" Sneider said.

Sneider said up until two years ago, Primestor didn't have a board of directors, but as they continued to grow, he wanted more input from a diverse range of leaders.

"Culturally, the company has always had a complete blindness when it comes to difference in race, ethnicity and gender," Sneider said. "We don’t see the world in any way like that. We give the opportunity to the most talented people in those roles and that was our hope."

Primestor's Janet Esquillo

Janet Esquillo, Primestor's director of accounting and a board member, said having women on the board will help inspire a new generation of women in commercial real estate.

"We are moving forward to an era where we have to be more open-minded," Esquillo said. "This is a great opportunity for the future generation. I have a daughter so I really appreciate [what the state government did]."

De Luna, who has been a board member the past year, said that historically, commercial real estate is an industry that has not been as welcoming to women and minorities. Primarily white men have dominated and controlled the industry.

But things are changing. There are now more women and minorities working in CRE and that's a good thing, she said. She said she's glad to be part of a forward-thinking company.  

"It's good to be part of the decision-making process and to be part of the bigger picture," she said.