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NAIOP Of Greater Philadelphia Elects First Female Chapter President

JLL Research Director Lauren Gilchrist, speaking at a NAIOP event at 1900 Market St. in 2018.

The Greater Philadelphia chapter of NAIOP has elected its first-ever female president.

The chapter's board of directors will elevate board member and JLL Research Director Lauren Gilchrist to the position beginning in the new year. She will succeed outgoing president and Liberty Property Trust Vice President Mark Seltzer and serve a two-year term, after which Brandywine Realty Trust Vice President Joe Ritchie will succeed her. Until that time, he will occupy a leadership position as president-elect.

With a board made up of executives from development and brokerage firms like Liberty, Brandywine, Keystone Property Group, MPN Realty and Newmark Knight Frank, Gilchrist is a break from NAIOP Greater Philadelphia's history not just for her gender, but also for her background in data research and analytics.

“It’s really significant in terms of the direction that the industry is growing and changing in overall," Gilchrist told Bisnow. "When the board asked me to take on this position, my initial comment to them was that it’s a progressive choice to choose not only a woman, but someone so young and someone who comes out of the data and analytics industry.”

In addition to NAIOP, Gilchrist also serves on the board of directors for the Old City Community Fund, as an advisory board member for the Temple Master's of Science in GIS program and as a working group member for the Philadelphia Global Identity Project. For the past 12 months, Gilchrist chaired NAIOP's government affairs committee, which is the organization's main arm for advocating on behalf of commercial real estate to city government.

“We want to be a voice to City Council to help make the right decisions on policy," Seltzer said. "So having someone in a data-based position with the ability to analyze, comprehend and propose alternate methods the way Lauren does in her day-to-day job is critical in working with City Council and the Department of Commerce and so on.”

JLL Research Director Lauren Gilchrist and Longfellow Real Estate Partners Managing Director Jessica Brock

Besides advocacy for CRE to government, NAIOP has increased its focus on promoting diversity and increasing opportunities for traditionally underrepresented groups in the industry. In 2018, it revamped its Developing Leaders Mentorship Program, which connects younger people in the industry with high-ranking executives to build their knowledge base and interpersonal network.

NAIOP Greater Philadelphia also launched its participation in the NEXUS program in 2018, wherein it brought 24 high-performing students of color to CRE companies for two-week internship programs. Gilchrist plans to continue and bolster both programs going forward.

“Often, people get into the business because of a family member or friend, [which] perpetuates the makeup of the business," Gilchrist said. "People outside the industry often don’t really know what it is, so students from diverse backgrounds don't really have an access point to the industry.”

In two years, Ritchie will be the first African-American to be NAIOP Greater Philadelphia's chapter president. Currently, there are eight female chapter presidents across NAIOP, a number that will grow to at least 13 next year, including Gilchrist, according to a NAIOP spokesperson. There are two current chapter presidents of color; one is African-American and the other is of Asian descent.

"We looked at the framework of real estate in the Philadelphia area, and thought that, given the focus of talent we have on the board, who would be a great fit and who embodied the direction we were heading, we thought that having Lauren as president for the next two years and Joe Ritchie for the two years after was the direction that the board wanted," Seltzer said. "And we were excited about the idea of a diverse and progressive succession plan that would take NAIOP through the next four years.”

Seltzer will remain on the board of directors and lead the executive committee. While Gilchrist has not yet finalized any specific initiatives she plans to undertake as chapter president, she is aware that her presence at the head of NAIOP is significant in its own right.

“I’m very excited to take on the role and be the face of NAIOP," Gilchrist said. "It’s important for other young people to see leaders that look like them in positions of authority, and it means a lot to the next generation of people coming up in this space.”