July 27, 2020

What This Year’s Women to Watch Have to Say

In this year’s 2020 edition of Women of Influence, we have based our selection of nearly 200 candidates on such criteria as career achievements, community outreach and mentorship within the industry. And as we experienced in previous years, we found it hard, to say nothing of humbling, to sift through the applications and select just the right nominees. In the issue, we also spotlighted up-and-coming women in commercial real estate who bear watching. We also spoke further with some of the women about obstacles they face in the industry and advice for others.

This year’s Woman to Watch are as follows:

  • Blima Enrentreu, founder and CEO of The Designers Group
  • Karly Iacono, VP of investments at Marcus & Millichap
  • Britt Raymond, a VP at SRS Real Estate Partners
  • Lindsay Fierro, SVP of operations at NAI Global
  • Meg George, managing partner at Akerman
  • Meg Epstein, founder and CEO of CA South
  • Danielle Handy, project manager at RocaPoint Partners
  • Michelle Dodge, first VP with Truist
  • Rachel Johnson, chief information officer at The NRP Group
  • Sarah Mayo, senior investor operations manager at CrowdStreet
  • Kendall Guinn, chief marketing officer at AQUILA
  • Erika Kim, VP of marketing at Avison Young
  • Pamela Murphy , director of marketing and public relations at Lee & Associates Commercial Real Estate Services
  • Lori Valencia, director of marketing at Matthews Real Estate Investment Services
  • Alexandra Williams, a director at Barings
  • Vicky Fajardo, a director of operations at Cushman & Wakefield
  • Corie Spankowski, director of operations at ARCO/Murray
  • Molly Stengel, director of property management at Hughes Development Corp.

When asked how women can better position themselves for success, Raymond tells GlobeSt.com that she would remind women to ask for what they want and what they deserve. “Men excel in confidence and their willingness to ask for business,” she says. “Women often wait for opportunities to come to them by relying on their competence and hard work.”

As an investment sales agent who focuses on exclusive listings, she notes that it is imperative to tell landlords your goal is to list property for them. “I would also push women in my field to explain to a landlord why they are the best broker for the assignment. Make your goals known as it will make it easier to achieve them.”

Fierro’s biggest challenge in her role has not only been about being a woman in a predominantly male industry but her age has contributed to it. “My role in this industry started in my 20s and I have worked hard to grow into this positon. I had to overcome several obstacles to earn the respect of other leaders. I was able to overcome them by proving that I am extremely driven, I think strategically and I don’t back down from a challenge.”

Fierro explains that commercial real estate has historically been a challenging industry for women but little by little that is changing. “The built environment has been a male industry from the beginning of time so we’ve made a lot of progress, especially in the last 20 years… Improvement for women will come in the form of flexibility and life-work balance so we can have these careers and still raise families. The old days of brokers having to be in the office by 7 am and leaving at 7 pm won’t work for us or anyone in the generations to come.”

For Guinn, her biggest challenge hasn’t had anything to do with her gender. “The challenge is achieving sales and marketing alignment.” In many commercial real estate organizations and traditional companies in general, the marketing team may be viewed as a cost center rather than a value producer, she tells GlobeSt.com. “We consistently show our leadership the value of the marketing dollar. We urge them to consider strategies based on target audience, brand values and campaign goals. At some companies, there may be some resistance at first, but in time as leads come in, deals are made then trust is built.”

As for advice, Guinn says about being smart, savvy, understanding your role and getting the job done efficiently and effectively. “It’s about being creative and hardworking and thinking outside the box. It’s also about leadership.”

One of her favorite axioms is “Hire better than yourself.” She says you should “Surround yourself with good people who you like, who do good work and that you enjoy being around. You need a team who you can motivate, and they can motivate you. Assemble a team that “clicks” and your success knows no bounds.”

Fierro says to learn everything and take on projects that give you a challenge. “This has been a proven strategy of mine to work my way up. People expect you to deliver.”

Raymond advises those in in the industry to continue to be a student of the game regardless of how long they have been in the field. “Our industry is ever evolving. Having an insatiable appetite for research, market data and insight will help you understand and anticipate changes. It will also help you asses what you are doing well in your business and what you can work on.”