In early November, Berkadia hosted it’s second Women in Commercial Real Estate forum, bringing together women across all sectors and careers stages of CRE to talk trends, experience and moving the needle on female representation in CRE. We checked in with Associate Director Lindsey deButts of Berkadia Hotels and Hospitality to hear some of the highlights of the event, her biggest takeaways from the conversations and why encouraging women to join—and stay in—the industry is so important.
This year’s forum had an impressive roster of female leaders in attendance. What were some of the highlights or key takeaways of the programming and conversations for you?
One of my biggest takeaways was that our industry is progressing in terms of the number of women within CRE as well as the number of women in senior, decision-making positions. It was refreshing to hear stories and advice from successful women both within Berkadia and externally.
Another big takeaway was that no one should be afraid to reach out for help at any point in your career and that help can come in a variety of forms ranging from a mentor, a career coach or just professional connection that you’re seeking advice from. We heard stories from seasoned female professionals when they were the only woman in the room or nervous to speak up, but then fast forward to today we were hearing from the women who lead Berkadia’s investment sales and mortgage banking platforms, women who have successfully launched their own companies, and women who have risen to the top of their respective firms.
It sounds like it was a jam-packed event. Was there a moment or an insight that was especially inspiring for you?
I think just realizing we’re all in this together and whatever you’re going through professionally, at any given moment, there is someone in your network who is or has gone through it as well. It’s just a matter of being confident and comfortable enough to tap into those relationships for advice or a sounding board. We’re all still learning and whether you’ve been in the industry for 5 days for 35 years, the best mentor/mentee relationship are ones in which both sides benefit from it.
To build on that, as important as asking for help, it’s just as important to make sure you’re giving it too. Unfortunately, we did hear stories where women reached out for female mentors and found either no answer or worse encountered pushback because they were seen as competition. Everyone can pinpoint a moment where someone helped them, so be sure to be that person for the next generation and if someone reaches out for help within your company, LinkedIn, alumni groups, etc., say yes!
What do you think are some opportunities to encourage more women in the industry? Is there a particular piece of advice you’d give to a woman considering a career in CRE?
More engagement earlier in women’s careers is key! There are still some negative associations with networking, promoting yourself and creating your personal brand, but the industry is looking for women to take more active leadership roles within their teams, companies or various committees and we should feel confident to step up to that opportunity. We need to help encourage women to take those chances.
I’d encourage women considering, or just starting a CRE career, to talk to as many people as they can. When I took my first CRE job, the industry wasn’t even on my radar as a possible career path. I had very few friends in the industry, or even considering it, and so I didn’t know much about it. Get involved with local groups, focus on making genuine connections, and don’t ever burn any bridges because the industry is smaller than you think!