Recap of the Real Estate Women’s Forum in NYC, Part 1


Over 400 women assembled at The New Yorker Hotel on February 16, 2017 for a day of following our professional passion of real estate.  Attendees and speakers ranged from Brokers to Developers to Capital Markets experts and beyond, touching both public and private sectors.  This made for interesting conversation at the end of the festivities with a networking event.

I’ll share some of my highlight moments from each of the morning sessions that I went to in this post, and the panels that they came from. The afternoon sessions will be posted in a Part 2 post forthcoming. 

The morning keynote included a presentation by Partnership for New York City President Kathryn Wylde and her interview conducted by United Way of New York City President and CEO Sheena Wright.  While the presentation focused on New York statistics, it was incredible for this Boston girl to hear the scale and scope of what is done in a city about the population of my state:

  • With 50% recent job growth in recent years, technology is a key opportunity for NYC.  Similarly, Ms. Wylde thinks that NYC is poised for growth in the life sciences fields.
    • MKD thought: Does NYC become more desirable than Kendall Square for the biotech field? Time will tell.  
  • Emerging cities will create 50% of jobs through 2025.
  • The continued political polarity will be a large risk for the economy now and moving forward, no matter what side you are on. She believes the two most important areas of impact are the tax burden on companies and the cost of healthcare expenses.  
  • Education of the work force must focus on SKILLS development.
  • Old ideas need to be re-imagined to push the envelope of what they can do and what is possible.
  • Know your audience – use empathy to focus on the other person.  This works in a variety of environments.  
  • The gender wage gap cannot be addressed by legislation, but rather through business leadership. Women should get organized with industry groups.
  • Anyone you meet is someone who could be a potential mentor.  Take advantage of everyone you meet and what they are willing to offer.  Most people are willing to help others, but do not explicitly state the phrase, “will you be my mentor?”

I found myself intrigued by this conversation, and by the New York statistics – I was hungry to learn more and how they compared with other states or cities. In particular, I was not curious about the statistics with emerging cities.  Given the increasing urbanization of America, I am curious where the most successful emerging cities will come from and how they handle to growth of those jobs. What kind of infrastructure growth, both in buildings and other related utility and transportation infrastructure, will be needed to sustain and provide opportunity? I also wonder in case of economic depression or recession how strongly these emerging cities will retain those jobs. Hoping for the best all around.

The next session was a panel discussion I enjoyed, even though it had a New York focus.  But the concepts these developers are discussing can be applicable if you think about what similarities there are in your own markets.  Each of the panelists had great advice – but what I found interesting was that most of these women, who were on the younger side, varied somewhat from what Ms. Wylde had offered in approach.

Cranes in the Clouds: Development & Construction State of the Market and Outlook

Moderated by Elise Wagener, Partner at Kramer Levin

Panelists were Jennifer Bernell, EVP at Kushner Companies; Terri Belkas-Mitchell, Principal at Xenolith Partners; Lauren Cahill, Senior Development Director at AvalonBay Communities; and Charlotte Sturgis, Head of Construction at Rose Associates

  • Downtown Brooklyn has a higher concentration of students than Cambridge, MA (home to Harvard, MIT, and others)
  • Technology like Uber and Lyft are changing the boundaries of where it makes sense to build
  • “If you find a deal that pencils, you’re going to take it”
  • Partnerships can exist with those who have land, like schools or churches, and would like to develop but don’t have the experience.
  • The new presidential administration means that affordable housing opportunities are anticipated to have funding gaps moving forward
  • In working with local agencies that may be difficult, you must understand that the people in those organizations are working to do their jobs too. Learn to understand where the reviewer is coming from.
  • Related to experience developing as a woman:
    • LC: Over prepare to compete. At the end of the day you need a stellar work product. Key books were “The Confidence Gap” and Megyn Kelly’s book. There will be some things you can’t control, but focus on what you can control.
    • TB: Go into the room as the “expert” – it engenders confidence in yourself and from others as the consummate professional
    • CS: Saw more issues with age than gender on the construction side. Allow work ethic and passion to make you shine.
    • JB: Set yourself apart with passion, work.  Be prepared to sink or swim – and learn to “swim professionally.”

The final panel of the morning before lunch that I attended had a very appealing title to me, but since the discussion tended heavily toward sustainability, I was a little disappointed.  The anecdotes of some of the projects, particularly from Ms. Fine and Ms. Radden, were the best and most entertaining parts of the panel as it was incredible the scope and scale of what they were able to accomplish in their previous and ongoing work. I did enjoy how interested the panel was in how each other was successful in their endeavors and how they accomplished tasks and projects. 

Ideas in the Skyline: Design, Technology, and Innovation in 2017 and Beyond.

Moderated by Julia Lewis, Director at Practice for Architecture and Urbanism

Panelists were Susan Fine, Principal at Oases Real Estate, Callie Haines, SVP – Asset Management at Brookfield; Sydney Mainster, Sustainability Manager at The Durst Organization; and Viki Radden, Managing Partner & COO at 5 Stone Green Capital

  • Sustainability can help reduce costs of managing an asset.  
  • Technology is needed to help push health and wellness in buildings
  • Look at products installed and used, including chemical portions
  • Sustainability tends to be very time heavy for research on both short and long term aspects.
  • Retrofitting creates a challenge cost-wise – question of how to finance savings
  • Sustainability is expected in the industry – for not cost increase to the user.
  • VR: “It is easier for the women to do what the boys don’t want to do”
  • We all need a place to live and food to eat – it is a question of how can we do it better than we did before?
  • VR: need multiple skills to succeed, and need to be agile.
  • Planning for the internet usage is essential.
  • Capturing data is important to know who is coming and who you need to reach to get them there.

Did you attend the conference?  What were your takeaways?  Was there anything that piqued your interest from my Part 1 recap?

Make sure to check back in for Part 2 of the conference in an upcoming post!

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