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These Women Are Building Bold Careers in Chicago's CRE Scene
March 1, 2021

These Women Are Building Bold Careers in Chicago's CRE Scene

by The CE Shop Team

Prominent Women in IL Commercial Real Estate Reflect and Offer Advice

In January 2021, some of the most powerful women in Illinois real estate gathered to share advice, reflections, and insight on the industry at Illinois’ second annual Women in Real Estate Summit. The event focused on commercial real estate and detailed the progress these women have made as well as the remaining work to be done in the fight for equality. Despite men holding most commercial real estate positions across the state, a growing number of women are trailblazing careers and leadership positions within the industry. Here are some of the most impactful takeaways and advice from a powerful panel of women leaders.

Women in Commercial Real Estate

Source: The Hollywood Reporter & TCF

While women now make up the majority of residential real estate agents nationwide, commercial real estate remains largely male-dominated. As of September 2020, women comprised only 36.7% of the entire CRE industry. Furthermore, this figure has not exceeded 37% within the last 15 years. With a tumultuous history of exclusion, the commercial real estate industry has much work to do in the pursuit of equality.

For example, Danielle Tillman, managing principal at bKL Architecture, detailed arriving on a job site where a contractor emphasized to the crew that Tillman was, in fact, in charge. While reiterating the fact that women can and do excel in leadership roles, Tillman stressed that a man in her position would not receive the same treatment.

Similarly, Trish Kelly, president of corporate banking at TCF bank, touched on communication challenges within the workplace, particularly in the age of COVID-19. “People sometimes wrongly believe that women have a different approach to communication,” said Kelly. “Not being in person, they don’t have body language to go off of. We have to use our words more carefully.” Kelly recommended maintaining face time with clients, perhaps outdoors or on the golf course, to prevent any unfortunate instances of miscommunication.

Advice for Women in Commercial Real Estate

While these anecdotes may seem bleak, the women leaders also offered sage advice to attendees. Alba Colavitti, senior design associate at Lamar Johnson Collaborative, suggested diving into projects head-first. “You need to ask questions like there’s no tomorrow,” Colavitti said. “Jump in and get out of your comfort zone. You can make mistakes, just don’t make them too expensive.” Other panelists agreed that, at the onset of their careers, they were more timid than their male counterparts. Instead, they advise women in commercial real estate and beyond to take more risks and spend less time wondering if they might come off as inexperienced.

Nancy Roach, president and founder of Strade Real Estate Services, also stressed the importance of honing your leadership skills, particularly in times of crisis. Regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, Roach asserted that her gumption has been tested unlike any other time in her career. While the panelists had mentioned that empathy, a trait often attributed more to women than to men, helped them navigate the crisis, Roach clarified that great leadership isn’t reliant on gender. “I look at it not so much as a male versus female thing, but what kind of leader you are,” Roach said. “This pandemic has separated the boys and girls from the men and the women.”

Whether you’re a seasoned vet or are just considering breaking into commercial real estate, Illinois’ Real Estate Summit could help you network, grow your business, or even just absorb some sage wisdom from some of the best in the biz. If you missed this year’s summit, keep an eye on REJournal’s calendar of events to support, uplift, and amplify the voices of women in Illinois commercial real estate next year.

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