Movers and Shakers: Real Estate

skyscrapers.JPGby Sima Matthes (New York City)

We try to focus on the positive here at The Glass Hammer, giving examples of women who’ve made it or are well on their way to the top of an industry. And much progress has been made, as can be seen from our reports on women in industries from pharmaceuticals to energy and everything in between. However, we were surprised at how few women could be found among the management of the top real estate companies listed on the Fortune 1000. Of the 10 real estate companies that made the list, not one has a female CEO, and two have no women at all in senior management.

The Glass Hammer put out a call to the industry to find out why this might be. Paul Murad, president of METROPLEX Group, a real estate brokerage and development company in Las Vegas, Nevada and author of Manhattanizing Las Vegas, stated that he believes it is the “perception and assumption that real estate development and finance is a ‘good ole boys club'” that stops women from going into the industry and, thus, from advancing to the top of it. Barbara Corcoran, the well-known founder of the Corcoran Group, author, and real estate contributor to The Today Show and CNBC, attributed the dearth of women at the top of Fortune 1000 real estate companies to the choice to put work/life balance above getting ahead. She thinks that “women have a lot more on their plate. It’s not that they don’t handle the tasks at the office as well or even better than the guys, but they come home to more management responsibilities at home. They don’t have time to play golf with the guys. Also, women are more thoughtful than men. They actually stop and ask themselves with regularity ‘is this worth it?’ Oftentimes the big position is not.”

In any case, there are some glimmers of hope visible through the glass ceiling. Here are some women who have broken through and achieved the proverbial penthouse view:

(1) Diane S. Paddison, Executive Director of Global Operations, ProLogis

Ms. Paddison joined the ProLogis (#387 on the Fortune 1000) in June of this year, following her tenure as president of Client Accounts, Global Corporate Services for CB Richard Ellis (CBRE), the world’s largest commercial real estate services company. She is responsible for managing ProLogis global business, including Asia and Europe.

She holds Master of Business Administration degree from Harvard Graduate School of Business and a Bachelor of Science degree from Oregon State University.

(2) Dea Benson, Chief Accounting Officer, Realogy Corporation

Dea Benson joined the Realogy Corporation (# 414 on the Fortune 1000) in February 2008 as senior vice president, chief accounting officer and controller. Prior to joining Realogy, the leading franchisor of real estate brokerages in the world, Ms. Benson was the CAO at Genius Products LLC. Before that, she was part of the core group that launched Dreamworks SKG, where she spent 11 years, including four years as controller. Following Paramount’s acquisition of Dreamworks SKG, Ms. Benson served as the divisional CFO of Paramount‘s Worldwide Home Entertainment Division.

Ms. Benson, a CPA and graduate of the University of Houston, is responsible for oversight of all corporate accounting and reporting functions, and for the shared services, treasury operations, corporate tax and risk management departments.

(3) Elizabeth A. Abdoo Executive Vice President General Counsel and Secretary, Host Hotels and Resorts

Ms. Abdoo is Executive Vice President, General Counsel and Secretary of Host Hotels & Resorts, Inc. (#440 on the Fortune 1000), the real estate investment trust (REIT) that owns Marriott, Hyatt, Ritz-Carlton and the Four Seasons brands. She joined Host Hotels as Senior VP and General Counsel in 2001 and has held her current position as EVP since 2003. Prior to joining Host, Ms. Abdoo spent five years as Senior VP and Assistant General Counsel of Orbital Sciences Corporation.

She earned both her Bachelor Degree and her J.D. from Georgetown University, and is on the faculty of the Practising Law Institute.

(4) Wendy Silverstein, Executive Vice President, Vornado Realty Trust

Before joining Vornado (#626 on the Fortune 1000) ten years ago, Ms. Silverstein was first an assistant vice president in the Leveraged Capital Group at Citibank N.A. before becoming VP and senior credit officer of Citicorp Real Estate and Citibank, N.A. in 1990. Ms Silverstein currently runs the Capital Markets Division of the company, which is one of the largest owners and managers of real estate in the United States.

Ms. Silverstein is a CPA and holds both her undergraduate degree (with magna cum laude honors) and her Master of Business Administration, with Distinction, from the The Wharton School of The University of Pennsylvania

(5) Lauralee Martin, Chief Operating & Financial Officer, Executive Vice President and Director, Jones Lang LaSalle

Ms. Martin joined Jones Lang LaSalle (#741 on the Fortune 1000 ), a Chicago-based international real estate services and investment management firm, in 2002, following her nearly 20 years of service at Heller Financial. Since joining the company, Ms. Martin is helping to improve JLL’s global businesses and risk profile. She has also been a member of the Board of Directors since 2005. When Ms. Jones left Heller following the company’s acquisition by GE Capital, she had been serving as Chief Financial Officer, where she is responsible for all aspects of the firm’s operational platform.

Ms. Martin holds a Bachelor of Arts from Oregon State University and a Master of Business Administration from the University of Connecticut.

The Glass Hammer thinks that the real estate industry would do well to place an ad – something like “View from the top, available immediately to all.” Has a nice ring, doesn’t it? We can only hope that the women featured continue to climb to the top of their industry, and that they fling open the door for those who would follow.