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A Compendium of Property & Capital News

“Women In Real Estate” Candidly Discussing The Past, Present & The Future ‘Voice’

July 20, 2018 - By Alexis Ahern
Moderator and Panelists from Left to Right: Sarah Limke, Whitney Gallivan, Liz Holland, Brenna Jordan, & Lisa Serafin

BOSTON–Several real estate professionals took the stage for the “Women In Real Estate” discussion at ICSC’s New England Conference & Deal Making, Tuesday, July 17th, at the Hynes Convention Center. Whitney Gallivan, Liz Holland, Brenna Jordan, and Lisa Serafin along with Moderator Sarah Limke all offered unique insight regarding their profession, their personal paths, and their opinions on where women fit in as leaders in the real estate industry today. The audience consisted of both men and women, ranging from millennials to senior executives. The compelling session began at 9:00 AM and ended on a bold note, leaving the crowd intrigued and inspired.

Each of the panelists voiced their own opinions on subjects such as fair-pay, the difference between male roles and female roles in real estate agencies, and even self-criticism.

Whitney Gallivan, Managing Director & Partner of Boston Realty Advisors, spoke about previous uncomfortable moments she dealt with concerning a past position and the inequities of the pay scales. “I knew how successful I was, but I did not ask for more pay, even though I knew that men were making more,” shared Gallivan. This remark seemed to give pause and lock the audience at attention, as she chronicled her early struggles. Gallivan says she speaks about her past experience to motivate the younger portion of the crowd. “It is important to have females in leadership positions, having more female leadership roles is important for both young men and women to see ... being a woman has motivated me,” Gallivan added.

Lisa Serafin, Co-founder and Principal of Redgate in Boston, also discussed the contrasting elements that surround young men and women entering the field, yet how these differences have positively evolved, as the inadequacy gap continues to close. “It used to be the norm that men would immediately hire their nephews in the workforce, now it is different,” expressed Serafin. All of the women tended to agree with Serafin’s idea that woman entering the real estate industry need to form their own persona by not comparing themselves to superior male figures. Serafin then discussed her own career as a strategy to support her previous statement. “In my company, I am the only woman principal ... currently, there are way more resumes coming from women, we need to go out there and seek them,” extolled Serafin.

Liz Holland, CEO of Abbell Associates, LLC, in Chicago, IL, and ICSC Past Chairman, brought laughter to the audience showing that she is not afraid to poke fun at herself. Holland spoke out about how each company needs to be able to define their own meaning of success. In order for Holland to become more prominent in her company, she said she needed to receive some feedback on how to make her weekly meetings more appealing. “I heard my meetings weren’t funny enough, now my meetings have different titles, such as “Quarterback Monday,” ... you have to be able to take negative criticism,” acknowledged Holland. Audience members began conversing and joking with one another, as Holland’s humor brought a more animated and relaxed feel to the sensitive subject.

Brenna Jordan, Vice President and Senior Legal Counsel of CVS Health in Woonsocket, RI provided more feedback on self-criticism while speaking about the CVS competency assessment at her workplace. This tool has helped her employees reflect on their strengths and weaknesses. “You first evaluate yourself, and then secondly you receive feedback from others .. the takeaway from this assessment is that the way you see yourself may be different from the way someone else sees you,” explained Jordan. When asked about further advice Jordan could offer to women, she responded briefly, but powerfully. “I had to raise my hand, I know people have it in them to raise their hands too, but I know there is some hesitation,” encouraged Jordan.

All the women spoke assuredly about the importance of mentorship in the real estate profession. Mentors, they exclaimed, will be the individuals who have the capability of inspiring other women to “raise their hand,” in relevance to Jordan’s insight. Lisa Serafin spoke about the difference between the terms “mentorship” and “sponsorship.” “A mentor is someone who pushes you, and a sponsor will advocate for you,” she explained. Liz Holland expressed her own personal story with the audience about how she mentored a younger professional by guiding her to pursue a specific goal of hers. “I knew a younger girl who just joined her father’s construction company…she asked me if she should go and get her MBA, I told her, “go,” and she later said I was one of the only individuals to focus on the positive side of this decision,” recounted Holland. The audience and other panelists listened intently to her story, as it seemed to describe the true meaning of giving back through mentoring while encouraging women to set, then reach for their own personal goals by going for it.

The energized session left female members in the audience eager to “raise their own hands.” Several questions were asked at the end of the panel’s discussion, including how ICSC should continue to raise awareness for women leadership roles. Throughout the session there was a common, powerful perspective stressed; that each woman has her own voice and identity, they just need to discover it and use it.