Q & A: Archway Real Estate Team
You may have noticed that each month in 2023, Archway’s newsletter has had themes that are universally recognizable. March is no different, with International Women’s Day last week and Women’s History Month being celebrated. We are very proud to feature a Q & A with one of our strong (mostly) female teams, the Real Estate team.
Archway’s Real Estate team manages the development, acquisition, and renovation of new communities to build Archway’s portfolio, as well as major rehabs of existing properties. The Real Estate team’s work spans every stage of the development and construction process – identifying sites, securing zoning and other city approvals, securing competitive subsidies, attracting and closing on private financing, and managing the design and construction process. The Real Estate team works hand-in-hand with Archway’s Programs and Property Operations teams to build the vision for how each project will strengthen our capacity to deliver on Archway’s mission.
Q: What is something you wish you knew earlier in your career or what advice would you give to future women job seekers in the industry?
A: “When I was in business school, I was often the only woman in my real estate classes. I would listen to the hyper-confident, bullish, bottom-line-driven conversations around me and wonder if I was cut out to be a developer. What I know now is that leading with curiosity, rather than being the “knower” who always has the right answer, is actually one of the most important characteristics of a successful developer. (Brene Brown’s Dare to Lead has some great insight on what this looks like in practice.) Early in my development career, I was intimidated by the sheer complexity of the technical details that a developer has to integrate – niche financing tools, zoning strategy, construction management, and more – to lead to a successful outcome. I can remember sitting in meetings with general contractors stealthily googling things like “gypcrete” and “resilient channel” so I could follow the basic outline of the conversation. Now I understand that even the most experienced developers are faced every day with problems and decisions in areas we’ve never seen. To move through them we have to lean into curiosity and ask the “basic questions” to get the right information out on the table to facilitate problem solving. I’m proud that Archway’s real estate team is intentional about developing, implementing and supporting each other with this skill on a daily basis.” – Julie Stern, Director of Real Estate
Q: What do you feel is the biggest challenge as a woman working in this industry?
A: “As a woman who has made a career in real estate development, a historically male-dominated field, I have certainly found myself being confronted with gender bias. I would say the most common is the unconscious bias (less often conscious bias) that people will occasionally display with the assumption that a woman is less qualified or experienced than a man for the role. Women in this field may often find themselves being the only woman in a room and needing to overcome gender bias to gain credibility. Women in positions of power need to be masters of navigating the social hierarchy; being skillful and agile at working through behavioral issues that men just don’t have to think about – like overcoming man-speak, justifying their expertise or education, handling belittling pet names, or commentary about their appearance, which are magnified issues for women in male-dominated fields.
More broadly, I feel the biggest challenges faced by women in this industry are the same challenges that women are facing in the workforce across all industries. The patriarchal system of the antiquated 40-hour+, in-office, workweek, and “hustle-culture” has created an environment that is not set up for women to have the freedom to be successful in a career. Balancing a successful career while (most often) being primarily responsible for the bulk of household responsibilities and carrying the weight of maintaining the mental load for a family and children is extremely challenging. Overcoming gaps in work history during child- bearing and rearing years can be a barrier to entry. Requirements to return to the office before women are physically and mentally ready after childbirth, juggling backlogged work from maternity leave, adding the onerous preparation, energy and time of a pumping schedule to maintain the ability to breastfeed children for long lengths of time, taking the bulk of the time-off needed to care for children and family members, etc., are just a few of the challenges that women face to be a part of the workforce. And negative judgements by supervisors and colleagues about how women handle these challenges are contributing factors to the bias narrative that “women are less committed to and reliable for their careers”. These judgements are damaging to women’s long-term career success and contribute to the continuation of the gender wage gap and women’s lifetime earning capacity.
I chose this question to answer because it is a great opportunity to talk about the ongoing challenges that women are facing in the workforce so that conversations flow and solutions can be found. The more women that are in the room, the wider the door is opened and the more welcoming the field will be to future female real estate developers! I am very proud to have joined a team of mostly women in this field and grateful for the support of both my female and male colleagues!” – Shaina Maphet, Development Manager
Q: What qualities make women a good fit for this industry?
A: “Vision and Perseverance:
One quality that makes women a good fit for this industry is the ability to craft and execute on a clear vision. The ability to see the potential and value in putting effort into a project that we know will need (a lot of) time and attention.
Another quality is perseverance. There will always be people who doubt your knowledge because of how you look or sound. We have the perseverance to not change who we are to fit into the box that we’ve often convinced ourselves needs to be conformed to.
It’s also important to note that the organization our team exists in allows for our team to thrive. The colleagues we work with and around truly and genuinely value what we bring to the table and willingly hand over a seat. Ultimately, have the resolve and curiosity to work towards being in an organization that allows for that, and know that such an environment can be a reality.” – Hannah Berkowitz, Housing Development Manager
Q: Is this the career path that you intended to take? What education did you obtain and what advice would you give to future job seekers?
A: “In a way, it was, but I took a winding path to get here. Back in high school, before I had a clue what career I’d pursue, I got involved with helping a refugee family settle into life in Toronto. I’d come home for dinner venting about the poor housing conditions and long commute the family had to deal with. I thought it was unfair and unsustainable. That feeling led me down an advocacy and policy path. I did a degree in political science and sociology, then a Master’s in public policy and another in urban planning. A spent a few years working in housing policy. I found my way to development in a search for something more tangible – building the actual units that help chip away at this problem, that’s where I wanted to be. My advice to future job seekers would be to grab a hold of that feeling that drives you and talk to as many people as you can who work in the field. Don’t be shy to ask someone for coffee, come away from each meeting with two other people to talk to, listen carefully to what you’re hearing about the work and what skills and education you’ll need. The path will start to take shape!” – Sarah Blanchard, Senior Development Manager
Q: What female figure, past or present, public or private, inspires you and why?
A: “A critical component of real estate development is access to capital. Until the Equal Credit Act was passed in 1974 banks legally discriminated against women and people of color, among others. While the EOC made discrimination illegal, many bankers still told women they should come back with their husband or father to open an account or get a loan. That changed in Colorado when Carol Green and Bonnie Andrikopolous’ vision for a more equitable bank became reality and the Women’s Bank opened in Denver in 1978. The Women’s Bank officially became the second nationally chartered women’s bank in the country (Washington, DC held the first). Thanks to the groundbreaking work of Carol, Bonnie and so many others I’m able to buy a home without a male cosigner, and I’m able to work in the industry that I do. While the housing and banking systems remain riddled with inequity, I’m inspired by the women who have come before me to push us step by step closer to a day when housing outcomes are no longer impacted by race and gender.” – Katie McKenna, Housing Development Manager
Q: What can men do to support their female coworkers in this industry?
A: “More than 60% of the commercial real estate industry is male and women occupy less than 15% of executive positions in the industry. With these gaps it is important that men support women throughout the industry. Advocating for women when it comes to opportunities and equal pay is crucial. Men must be willing to take a stand if they witness inequality in the workplace. Additionally, men can help close the gender gaps in the industry by supporting and mentoring young women who are interested in real estate. Real estate is the largest industry in the world, there should be no reason such significant gender gaps exist.” – Brandon Buse, Financial Analyst