USC Price launches series to promote leadership opportunities for women in real estate
By Matthew Kredell
To watch the video of the full panel, please click here »
Gender roles in America are continuing to evolve — and for the real estate field to adjust to the times, there needs to be more women working in the industry. The USC Price School of Public Policy hosted a Women in Real Estate Luncheon on Nov. 4 as the first in a series of events to grow opportunities for women in real estate and develop initiatives at the Price School to support female students in their careers.
USC Price’s Dollinger Master of Real Estate Development and Bachelor of Science in Real Estate Development degree programs presently enroll a total of 71 women; many of whom attended the recent event at the Sheraton Grand Los Angeles hotel.
Professor Richard Green, Director of the USC Lusk Center for Real Estate and Vice Chair of the Department of Policy Analysis and Real Estate at USC Price, remarked that it’s disheartening to attend real estate events, only to find a trenchant lack of diversity; he joked that oftentimes the vast majority of attendees are old white men like himself. Green noted that many in the industry might not even realize that just seven percent of U.S. households have a married couple with a working husband, non-working wife and kids at home.
“In order for our business to do well and provide the real estate that people want, it must have those providers who know what it’s like to be a woman in the current economic and social environment,” Green said. “And so it’s not just a moral imperative to bring more women into the business, it’s a fundamental business imperative as well.”
Mercedes Kerr, right, with Emily Taylor (Photo by David Giannamore) View more photos on Flickr »
The impact the USC Price School has made on helping women become leaders in real estate was on full display in a panel moderated by 1997 MRED alumna Clare De Briere, Chief Operating Officer at The Ratkovich Company. The panel also featured three other MRED graduates in Mercedes Kerr ’95, Executive Vice President of Business Development at Welltower Inc.; and Lisa H. Reddy ’08, Vice President and Leasing Officer at Prologis; and Emily G. Taylor ’16, Director of Development for AIMCO; as well as Courtney DeBeikes, Project Manager at Thomas Safran & Associates, who earned her Bachelor of Science at USC Price in 2011.
The panelists showed that women can take on the responsibilities of having a family and a successful career. Kerr and Taylor said they both took off time to raise their kids. For Kerr, the decision seemed like a huge risk initially, but she returned after two years in a better place than when she left. Taylor pointed out that the entrepreneurial freedom of real estate allows one to scale up or down her career based on family obligations.
“Hearing them say that they had successful family lives stood out to me, because in my head it’s always been a conflict — am I going to be a CEO or am I going to be a mother?” said Christiana Ritchie, a Price undergraduate student majoring in real estate development. “To hear from people who are both is really inspiring.”
Insights and advice
Lisa Reddy, center, with Courtney DeBeikes, left, and Emily Taylor (Photo by David Giannamore) View more photos on Flickr »
When asked to provide advice for young women beginning their careers in real estate, DeBeikes said she had issues early on with saying “sorry” too much. She then added that confidence speaks volumes in a room filled with men. Taylor agreed, explaining that she doesn’t think she was reaching high enough early in her career, but joining the MRED program at USC changed her perspective.
“It was really exciting to come to the program and be around all the energy of a lot of people who were ambitious,” Taylor said. “It got me thinking that I do want to reach higher; I do want to do more.”
Reddy believes an advantage women have in real estate is being viewed as a good sounding board by all team members.
“There are studies about how companies that have women in leadership, women on the boards, tend to perform better,” Kerr said. “My sense is that has to do with collaboration. I think women have the opportunity to create the sort of bond and culture that tends to drive performance.”