Victoria Dutcher Moderates the Twin Cities Power Women Event

01/10/2020

On December 11, 2019, Bisnow held its inaugural Twin Cities Power Women event to highlight the success of women in the commercial real estate industry. The event showcased initiatives which have been pivotal in driving innovation in the industry, anchored by a panel which discussed the topic  “Opportunity and Inspiration: The Key to Increasing Participation of Women in the Industry.”

Five industry leaders in commercial real estate joined the panel: Anne Behrendt, President and CEO of Doran Companies; Carrie Eggleston, Development Manager at United Properties; Jaci Bell, Development Executive at Mortenson; Jennifer Koehler, Vice President at Opus AE Group; Laurie Mahowald, Vice President of Real Estate at Target; and Ericka Miller, Senior Vice President at KimbleCo. Each panelist first shared some background on their career paths and offered advice to up-and-coming commercial real estate professionals. 

Panelists Ericka Miller, Carrie Eggleston, and Jaci Bell all stressed the importance of leveraging not only membership but substantive involvement with professional real estate organizations like MNCREW and MNCAR. As Miller stated, “This business is built on relationships no matter what side of the business you are on. You cannot just join an organization and expect to get a bunch of contacts. You really have to work, and you have to reach out to people, ask for coffees. Ask to meet people.” Bell added, “One of the best things you can do is serve on a committee, particularly one that is larger, and, if it is about programs or events or something that is outward-facing where you can get to know more people, that is a great way to spread your network in a formalized way.” 

The conversation then turned to the panelists’ experience of change in the industry and their hopes for its future. Panelists described corporate initiatives that have been instrumental in attracting and retaining diverse talent. Chief among these initiatives, the panelists agreed, is to develop policies that support families and to encourage flexibility -- while maintaining workplace expectations -- at all levels of responsibility. Anne Behrendt, President and CEO at Doran Companies, described informal initiatives at Doran to encourage leadership to be transparent with their schedules and to make family obligations public, to signal to all employees the value of work/life balance at the company. In Anne’s own words, “We work hard at that at our company to make sure that people really do feel like they have that flexibility. I think when you have the best and brightest, they are always going to get their work done. They are going to figure it out, but you have to give them that flexibility.”

Laurie Mahowald, Vice President for Real Estate at Target, applauded her employer for anchoring its diversity initiatives in the belief that Target can better serve not only its employees, but its customers when its corporate headquarters attract, retain, and give a voice to a workforce diverse in its backgrounds, ethnicities, and gender: “We have different business counsels. I think the most relevant one for this group is the women’s business council that gets together. The idea is that people can come to work and find connections with what they are passionate about and actually help drive impact within the corporate headquarters and beyond Target’s strategy. It’s just great. I could go on and on, but I’m really proud of what Target is doing.”

To round out the event, the panelists shared a piece of advice that resonated with them throughout their careers and personal lives. Behrendt shared a bit of treasured wisdom from her grandfather: “His advice to me, he would say it often, was, you know what, kid?  It only costs a little more to go first-class. I love it because he was a schoolteacher his whole life, and I don’t think he ever flew first class. The point, I think, is finding the joy, say yes. Do those things that bring richness to your life or whatever that is for you.” Miller described a speech given by Carla Harris of Morgan Stanley, in which Harris stated: “Performance is what will start the conversation, working hard, being really good at what you do, striving to be the best, but the relationships you make in your job are what’s going to propel your career.”

Other honorees at the event included Pat Wolf, President at Commercial Real Estate Services; Erin Fitzgerald, Principal at Transwestern; Maureen Michalski, Vice President, Development, at Schafer Richardson; Barb Schuba, Principal & CFO at Suntide Commercial Realty; Lisa Kro, CFO & CAO at Ryan Companies; Heather Weerheim, Director of Business Development at Greiner Construction; Shauen Pearce, Director of Economic Development & Inclusion Policy at the City of Minneapolis; and Lori Larson, Executive Vice President at Dougherty Real Estate Equity Advisors.