Women On The Move: 4 CRE Finance Execs On How They Reached The Top And What's On The Horizon

 

C ommercial real estate is slowly shedding its reputation as an old boys club, as efforts to bring more women into the male-dominated industry gain traction.

Research from CREW shows that female representation is growing, not just in CRE at large, but within the senior and executive positions that wield immense influence over where we live, work and play.

Nowhere are women in real estate closer to gender parity than in the world of finance. Women hold more than a third of the positions in real estate finance, acting as underwriters, lenders, loan servicers, accountants, attorneys, appraisers and in dozens of other roles. Unlike many sectors of CRE, where power often passes from father to son or between old colleagues, finance tends to offer more inroads to its highest ranks for women, earning it a reputation as one of the most inclusive sectors in CRE.

“Providing opportunities for women is in our DNA,” said Judy Guarino, Northeast executive director for commercial mortgage lending at JPMorgan Chase. “I don't look at it as something I have to squeeze in. I'm always looking to bring in talented employees from diverse backgrounds and help them progress and grow.”

That mindset is no accident. JPMorgan Chase has been investing in gender parity, most recently through an initiative known as Women on the Move, which strives to bring women and people of diverse ethnic and racial backgrounds into the world of finance and to advance the careers and the financial well-being of women across industries.

Internally, Women on the Move provides mentoring and networking opportunities, focus groups and panels for women and works to ensure that women are supported and, more importantly, promoted within JPMorgan Chase. Externally, the program offers forums for women to discuss and learn about their financial health and has so far provided for $10B in loans to small businesses owned by women.

Make no mistake: Women still have only a tiny foothold in the upper echelons of commercial real estate, where 91% of C-suite roles are held by men. There are years of conversations and efforts to come before women find themselves equally represented at real estate's highest levels. But there are lessons to be gleaned from the women who have already made it to the top.

“We have to make sure that we are encouraging more women to take interest in our industry, and embracing the women who want to join,” said Lynnette Antosh, JPMorgan Chase's Southern California managing director of multifamily lending.

Explore below to learn more about four JPMorgan Chase women at the peak of the CRE lending world, how they got there and what they think is on the horizon.