On January 21st, CREWBaltimore hosted the Women of Influence luncheon featuring Shina Parker, CEO & Founder of Integrity Title & Escrow, Karen Singer, Esq., Principal at KMS Partners, Colleen Vacelet, President of Intreegue Design, and moderated by Theresa Tsamoutalis, President & Principal of Allsafe Elevator Inspections. Topics of discussion ranged from juggling the work/home balance to why these women decided to strike out on their own.
To understand why these women are so exceptional, it helps to understand the demographics of the workforce and CRE in particular. The numbers of women and men first starting out in the workforce at the beginning of their careers are fairly equal, 75% are men and 74% are women. By mid-career, men outpace women in managerial roles 47% to 40%. By late-career those numbers are even higher, with 57% of men occupying managerial jobs and only 41% of women in the same position. Women represent 35% of the workforce in the US and only occupy 9% of the C-Suite positions. In commercial real estate specifically, there is a 23.3% pay gap in starting salaries between men and women. So how did these women navigate the industry to become leaders?
Their reasons for striking out on their own came from very different places. As a landscape architect, Vacelet found that she had hit the pay ceiling but worked diligently to gain experience and knowledge. That hard work eventually paid off and enabled her to start her own company and acquire her previous employer. When Parker was told to “know her place” after she was responsible for bringing in more than half of her previous employer’s business, she knew she had no other option than to start her own company. Twenty-one years later, she now owns the number one women-owned minority title company in the State of Maryland. Singer found herself in a different situation when corporate restructuring resulted in her being laid off with no plan B. Over the next several months she continued to network before starting her own firm working with developers in the market.
So how did they succeed in an industry that is statistically challenging for women? For Singer, she believes luck doesn’t just happen. Her advice is to put yourself out in the universe and lay the foundation of who you want to associate with. Continue to ask for feedback and take the time to listen. Vacelet believes the most important part to success is having a clear vision. Success isn’t what you want to be, it’s who you want to be. For Parker, success is the result of how you use the opportunities you have.
Closing words of advice from the panel were: Don’t be afraid to toot your own horn. Ask for feedback and listen; be teachable. Be a mentor, don’t overlook the associate or the assistant. After decades of progress, the demographics of the industry look the same. Push for diversity wherever possible.