Women in the Workforce and Why it Matters: Recognizing The Leaders
By: Malory Atkinson (Shear Structural) and Delilah Wynn-Brown (HJ Russell & Company)
In real estate terms, the pandemic has been called “the great accelerant”, accelerating trends already underway leading up to 2020. Whether it was a shift away from brick and mortar retail, the shift toward suburban town centers, or the affordable housing shortage, the pandemic created an environment where these trends expanded and moved much more quickly.
There is one aspect in real estate and the economy more broadly, however, where we have a reversal and not an accelerant – women’s participation it the labor force and growth in leadership positions specifically. During the last half century and up until 18 months ago, women made huge strides in workforce participation rates. The New York Times recently wrote that for the first time in history, in January 2020 women made up more of the workforce than men – a statistic that was soon erased as over 5 million women were forced to leave the workforce to attend to family commitments at the onset of the pandemic.
These headwinds come at a time when companies are facing unprecedented labor and talent shortages, which could be a prime opportunity for women to further advance their careers, particularly in real estate.
How we talk about and represent these issues are critically important in finding solutions. This is why forums like ULI’s Women’s Leadership Initiative (WLI) exist to give visibility to women in leadership positions in real estate industry, which in turn helps create a more diverse and inclusive industry where all women and minority groups can be heard, seen, and have their expertise and professional contributions valued.
The needle is moving in the right direction, albeit slowly because dismantling decades of cultural norms around women and leadership will take time. And if you ever questioned what the glass ceiling is – take a look at the NAREIM Diversity & Inclusion Survey 2021 which shows this invisible barrier more clearly.
Of the women who enter the real estate industry at a junior or mid-career level – only a small fraction of those women attain senior and executive leadership positions. Taking a glass half full approach, very small gains were made between 2017 and 2021 of women in executive leadership roles and this is even with a historic exodus of women leaving the workforce during the pandemic.
So the importance of ULI Atlanta’s WLI launching The Leaders in 2020 was a way to acknowledge and shed light to some of these systemic barriers as well as celebrate women who have made extraordinary contributions to their city and community in real estate, land use, urban planning, and housing.
The intention is simple – to increase the presence of women in the real estate and land use industry, especially in leadership positions and board rooms, as speakers at industry conferences, subject matter experts and everything in between.
ULI Atlanta’s first cohort recognized seasoned industry giants and helped amplify mid-career professionals and emerging leaders from across the Atlanta district council
Following in the first cohort’s footsteps, we are excited to introduce the second cohort of The Leaders 2021:
|THE LEADERS – 2021|
|Aisha Thomas||AJT Law||Commercial Real Estate Attorney/Principal Broker|
|Ashani O’Mard||Atlanta Affordable Housing Fund||Executive Director|
|Audra Cunningham||T. Dallas Smith & Company, LLC||Executive Vice President & Chief Administrative Officer|
|Beth McMillan||Atlanta BeltLine, Inc||Vice President, Planning, Engagement & Art|
|Cheneé Joseph||Historic District Development Corporation||Executive Director|
|Eloisa Klementich||Invest Atlanta||President and CEO|
|Jeanie Hunter||Synergy Construction||CEO and Co-Founder|
|Jennifer Owens||Columbia Residential||Vice President of Resident Services|
|Jessica Toal||ASD | SKY||Principal and Vice President|
|Jodi Selvey||Colliers||Senior Vice President and Principal|
|Karen Jenkins||Shear Structural||Co-Founder and Managing Partner|
|Liz Martin-Malikian||Kennesaw State University||Professor of Architecture|
|Maria Mollise||Weissman PC||Director of Commercial Real Estate|
|Maribel Koella||NAI Koella | RM Moore||Principal Broker|
|Mary Beth Cuttshall||HVMG||Executive Vice President & Chief Development Officer|
|Natallie Keiser||Annie E. Casey Foundation||Senior Associate, Community Economic Development|
|Pamela Smith||Smith Real Estate Services, Inc.||President and CEO|
|Sandra Zayac||Arnall Golden Gregory LLP||Partner|
|Sharon D. Guest||The Vecino Group||President, Affordable Housing|
|Terri Lee||Atlanta Housing||Chief Operating Officer|
|Traci Carusi||Collins Cooper Carusi Architects||President and CEO|
|Alena Green||Central Atlanta Progress||Senior Project Manager, Economic Development|
|Alexandra Kirk||Jamestown LP||Development Manager|
|Ashley Jones||Microsoft||Community Program Manager|
|Mandy Eidson||Atlanta Neighborhood Development Partnership (ANDP)||Senior Manager|
|Shirlynn Fortson||City of Brookhaven||Economic Development Director|
Our sincerest hope is that these women will become a beacon for others. By amplifying their work – ULI can help to change the perception of an entire industry for underrepresented groups and create a more diverse table at which to sit.