The Real Deal New York

At Forest City, it’s a woman’s world

Female executives dominate development positions at firm

March 04, 2015 12:45PM

From left: MaryAnne Gilmartin, Susi Yu and Bruce Ratner

From left: MaryAnne Gilmartin, Susi Yu and Bruce Ratner

While Forest City Ratner’s president and CEO MaryAnne Gilmartin is widely acknowledged as one of the most powerful figures in the real estate community, not many realize that she presides over an impressively gender-balanced team of development leaders.

On Forest City’s main development team, 12 of 20 members are female, and half of its dozen C-suite executives are women.

“We’re a meritocracy. It’s that simple,” Bruce Ratner, the executive chairman of the firm, told Capital New York.

Ratner said that the idea of “fit” can hurt the hiring process, as a “good fit,” culturally, often means a male.  At Forest City, he said, “whoever is best gets jobs and salaries… We’re gender neutral… and that’s how it is.” He also added, “MaryAnne, honestly, she’s better than I am.”

Part of the difference comes from Forest City’s flexible policies for working mothers, according to Capital. As far back as 1998, Linda Chiarelli, now a senior vice president and deputy director of construction, was working at the company on a part-time basis so that she could take care of her three children. “It’s sort of an interesting thing that that opportunity was there at a time when that was not the norm,” she said.

When Forest City was in the midst of securing financing for the New York Times building, Gilmartin had just had her second child and didn’t think she’d be able to make an important meeting, which was in a remote location not accessible by commercial airlines. Ratner encouraged her to go and promised to have her back by a decent hour.

“I said, ‘You know what? I got to go,” Gilmartin said. “Got back on the helicopter, I went home and I made it in time for the five o’clock feeding.” [Capital NY] — Tess Hofmann

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