December 9, 2016
Interviewed by: Matt Malone
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Why a Supportive Network is Crucial for Women in RE

Two women in the private equity real estate world give advice to women just starting out in real estate, and extoll the benefits of cultivating mentorships.

Two women in the private equity real estate world give advice to women just starting out in real estate, and extoll the benefits of cultivating mentorships.

Why a Supportive Network Is Crucial for Women in RE
With Metropolitan Real Estate and TH Real Estate

Matt Malone, Privcap:
Hi, I’m Matt Malone of Privcap. I’m very happy to be joined today by Sarah Schwarzschild from Metropolitan Real Estate, part of The Carlisle Group, and Adriana de Alcantara from TH Real Estate, part of TIAA Global Asset Management. Welcome to the program.

Unison: Thank you.

Malone: I think it’s pretty widely accepted that women are underrepresented in the investment side of real estate. Sarah, starting with you, what’s some advice you would give to a young woman entering the industry who aspires to grow her career and increase the levels of responsibility?

Sarah Schwarzschild, Metropolitan Real Estate:
The advice I would give that young woman who is just starting out in her career is, first and foremost, be prepared and practice in everything you do so you become the expert on your own material. That means that when you’re in the room, you know exactly what you’re talking about. It also gives you more confidence in your presentations, whether it’s talking to an investor or talking to your boss, presenting internally. Women are less inclined to take jobs because they may be uncertain that they can do that job or be qualified for it. I would say just go for it.

Adriana de Alcantara, TH Real Estate:
Yeah, go out there and be yourself. I think women are very well fit for the real estate markets.

Malone: One point you make, Sarah, on this idea of not taking an opportunity because you think you might not be able to handle it: is some of that related to, for instance, [getting] to a certain point in a career and [deciding] to have a family?

Schwarzschild: In terms of my own family and my life, we have both working parents. I personally made a job change when I was four months pregnant. I joined Carlisle to head up the real estate secondaries team. That’s a potentially tough thing to do, but it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for me and I really wanted to do it. So, I went for it, and I’m fortunate enough that I found a group of people who are very supportive.

De Alcantara: My experience as well is quite similar to your experience. In fact, I have three girls—women as well. I have lived in many countries and was fortunate enough to work with organizations that really support women working.  In fact, right now, I am based in New York, but I live in Florida with my kids and my husband and I commute. So you can do it.

Malone: How do you do your due diligence, so to speak, on an organization to figure out if they support the particular situation you’re in, meaning if you were to have a family?

Schwarzschild: I think the best way to diligence a company and how supportive they are of working mothers and work/life balance in general is to both look at the formal policies in place—Do they have maternity leave and how long is [it]?—but also to understand the culture. I think culture starts from the top. Talk to other people who have worked for the leaders of the company or know the leaders of the company and understand what kind of people they are and how supportive they are of different needs on the personal side.

Malone: Do you feel that there’s a sense of community that—again, building out a network of women in this industry—will help to diligence a new opportunity or to move ahead in your career?

Schwarzschild: I definitely think there is a women-in-real-estate investor community or a women-in-real-estate community, in general, on the investment side or otherwise. And it’s really important to foster that community. It gives you support and friendships and it’s helpful. Also, your network should be broader and include men even within the industry, even outside of the industry. In my life, I found that I’ve had great mentors who are women, but I’ve also had great mentors who are men as well.

De Alcantara: As women, we have the moral obligation to mentor other women in the industry as well. I am always mindful of the people working with me. Women should have the same opportunities as men.

Malone: How would you go about identifying a good mentor? Is it a deliberate act that, when you go there, you want to seek out someone you can learn from who seems open to sharing their experience and helping you along the way? Or is it something that tends to happen more organically, at least in your personal experience?

Schwarzschild: I have always had the mentality that I would like to have mentors. So, it’s in the back of my mind. But I do think it’s hard to walk into someone’s office and say, “Hi, I’d like you to be my mentor today.” Because there is a back and forth that happens in that type of relationship and I found that some folks I connect with are more mentors in that they provide advice. They provide feedback.

Tell me if you agree with this: I would guess that many young women are potentially put off by real estate investment rather than real estate in general. Because there are lots of women who work in real estate IR in other capacities outside of investment, either in sales or investor relations. It’s more that there is the stigma that investing [means] really long hours and it’s really hard.

Malone: Adriana, did you find this to be an obstacle in your own career? Was this a day-to-day reality for you or did your career take its own path? Was it not something that was always in your mind about how to navigate it as a woman?

De Alcantara: Quite honestly, I don’t think I had challenges in my career being a woman. But it’s true that I was fortunate enough to work in organizations that support women in real estate.

I spent a very important amount of my time just building relationships, not only with clients or outside parties, but also internally in my organization. I talk to younger team members. They appreciate that, but my peers as well. Building the relationship with time, you see that it pays off.

Schwarzschild: I’ve had a different experience, because I did have challenges related specifically to being a woman. I feel fortunate that I’m in a company now that is very supportive of women, but that’s not always been true in the past. [There’s] the perception that being on the investment team means you work really long hours—you work all the time, you never get to go home. You have to be really good at math. You have to be very aggressive and “on” all the time. I’ve found, especially as a working mom, that being on the investment team has been great. I really like being able to make my own decisions. I like being able to be in control of my schedule. I like being able to take a deal from the beginning to the end and I think [it’s good]—specifically for working parents—having that visibility into your future calendar where you know that, if you source a deal, it’s going to be a busy week.

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