It’s a man’s world, and real estate is certainly no exception. But the Association of Real Estate Women’s 35th anniversary gala last night highlighted just how far women in New York City’s real estate industry have come, with the evening’s keynote speaker — City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who would be the city’s first female mayor — offering encouraging words to hundreds of industry women (and men) in attendance.
The glamorous setting, at Gotham Hall in Midtown, drew hundreds of guests, who dined on a beef tenderloin dinner and sipped from bottomless wine glasses.
Honorees included Quinn, Malkin Holdings’ president and CEO Anthony Malkin (a favorite with the ladies); Cia Buckley, chief investment officer of Dune Real Estate Partners; and Cathy Dove, vice president of CornellNYC Tech.
Guests included Forest City Ratner CEO MaryAnne Gilmartin; queen of retail Faith Hope Consolo of Douglas Elliman; and Marilyn Weitzman, president of real estate consultancy the Weitzman Group.
AREW’s members are mostly women in commercial real estate, but residential brokers, such as Rebecca Mason, a director of sales at Stribling & Associates, dot the ranks, a representative for the group said.
In her keynote address, Quinn recalled how her hardworking Irish Catholic mother counseled her and her sister (now a geologist) to “be great” at whatever they chose to do. Quinn encouraged other women to strive for excellence and underscored her belief that “the only way New York City will continue to grow” is if the city “embraces diversity.”
Honorary AREW chair Merle Gross Ginsburg told the crowd that the Real Estate Board of New York denied her bid for membership when she entered the industry in 1975, an experience which prompted her to found AREW in 1978.
Ginsburg, who joined the business to make ends meet after a divorce left her with custody of three young children, recalled an industry dinner early in her career with thousands of men — and three women, one of whom was the late landlord Leona Helmsley — in attendance.
“I’ve worked too hard to get here,” the third female guest told Ginsburg, explaining how she would not help her in the industry.
But things have changed, albeit slowly. With figures like CBRE Tri-state CEO Mary Ann Tighe and the superstar sister brokers Darcy and Tara Stacom of CBRE and Cushman & Wakefield, respectively, the gender barriers in commercial real estate are certainly showing their cracks. Still, guests at the event said, the lack of women in top positions and the lack of mentorship for young women entering the field remain a problem.
“We have certainly grown in numbers and stature, but there are still plenty more titles to earn and more corner offices to move into,” Faith Hope Consolo told TRD today.
Beyond access and networking, a more slippery but equally relevant issue remains for women in the industry: perception, speakers and guests said.
One guest highlighted a recent New York Times article describing Quinn as “surprisingly volatile, with a habit of hair-trigger eruptions of unchecked, face-to-face wrath.”
“Would that have happened if she were a man?” the guest asked The Real Deal.