5 Questions For Philly Power Women: JLL's Lauren Gilchrist
You don't have to be the first of anything to be a woman of influence in commercial real estate, but it certainly doesn't hurt. When JLL Research Director Lauren Gilchrist became the first female president of the Philadelphia chapter of NAIOP, and the first to come from a research background, she made a splash.
We asked Gilchrist and other speakers for Bisnow's Philly Power Women event Oct. 30 at The Rittenhouse Hotel five questions to get a sense of the many different ways one can be a Power Woman. Here are Gilchrist's answers.
Bisnow: If you could teach women growing in the industry today just one thing, what would it be?
Gilchrist: Be yourself. It’s important to establish who you are as a professional, as opposed to following someone else’s professional path or style. Authenticity is the No. 1 trust builder not just for women, but everybody. It’s critical to figure out who you are and be steadfast in that.
That's not to say that you shouldn’t accept feedback, but being yourself is probably the critical element.
Bisnow: What is your biggest career failure and what positive lessons did it teach you?
Gilchrist: I don’t know if I’ve had anything that I would classify as a straight-up failure, because I try to frame everything as a learning opportunity. Nothing I’ve done has resulted in losing a client or a lot of money, and I don’t want to say that’s because I’ve been cautious, but I’ve certainly been careful and deliberate.
I transitioned from the nonprofit and government world when I joined JLL almost five years ago at the age of 29 in this industry that is so male-dominated. I’m not sure I knew what I was in for in terms of competitiveness and the personalities in the business. Not that there aren’t competitions and big personalities in government, but it’s so different.
Becoming a professional woman in CRE has changed me as a person for the better. Those struggles have made me understand more about who I want to be, and have helped make me more confident. It has changed my life, period.
Bisnow: What accomplishment are you most proud of in your career and how did you achieve it?
Gilchrist: From a business perspective, I played a significant role in winning the leasing assignment for 1735 Market St., and that’s a marquee assignment. It’s one of the only third-party leased trophy assets in the city, and it was a pitch that I originated and helped to develop.
Becoming the first female president of the local chapter of NAIOP was a big deal, and also because it came from the research and data side. For the board to share their confidence in me as a young, female leader was special to me, and it’s something I don’t take lightly.
I have a broad base of experience that I bring to the chapter that is somewhat unlike past presidents. My government experience gives me a base in advocacy at the national and local level, which was not something that they had previously had in a chair. And that’s not because I’m a woman.
Bisnow: How have you seen companies change the way they address wage and gender inequality in recent years?
Gilchrist: At JLL, it’s a huge focus at the corporate level in terms of trying to elevate women to leadership positions that are visible in the company. We also have internal affinity groups focused on women. But it’s a long-term struggle because it requires a pipeline of talent before you start to see more women in executive roles.
A young professional who graduated four or five years ago is still learning who they are and learning what it takes to advance in the professional industry. And the industry has only woken up to these issues in the past five to seven years, so it’s just going to take a lot of time. It’s a matter of developing a talent pipeline, but also growing accustomed to the diversity that a female perspective brings to a board table.
We talk about diversity in terms of how people look, but diversity also applies to thought processes and management style. CRE has had male leadership for so long that it has only really experienced that one type of management style. We’re finally seeing women at high profile enough positions for that to change.
Bisnow: What is your favorite part of working in the Philly market, and what is the thing about other markets/another market in particular that you envy most?
Gilchrist: Research in Philly is a lot of fun because there’s a lot of nuance to telling the story in the CRE market. In the New York, San Francisco or Boston markets, there’s clearly a lot of momentum from investors, new construction and capital. They’re kind of just home runs, while Philadelphia is kind of an underdog, which means telling its story through research is a lot harder and a lot more fun.
That kind of difficulty in telling the story of Philly is something that I do wish wasn’t the case. It’s a cool, affordable place with great stuff to do, [but] it gives me a bit of envy because the relative lack of institutional investor interest in Philly kind of holds us back.
From a demographic perspective, I can’t think of a better place to be than Philadelphia, and that’s still just so challenging thanks to our tax system.