Commercial Real Estate Women Detroit and the Mike Ilitch School of Business Institute for Leadership and Diversity hosted “Women @ Work: Developing Detroit” on Oct. 26.
The event, which focused on the role of women in commercial real estate, was the first in a series of events targeted to help Wayne State women explore, establish and advance their careers.
“We came to Wayne State University and said we are an organization of 200 professional women in Detroit,” said Marilyn Nix, a member of CREW Detroit’s Outreach Committee. “We wanted to reach out to women students to show them the opportunities of commercial real estate in Detroit.”
Toni Somers, associate dean of the Mike Ilitch School of business and co-director of ILEAD, said there “aren’t that many women” in commercial real estate, and it is an underdeveloped field for women.
“[We] encourage and expose women to areas that they may not have gotten exposure to,” she said.
Somers said, “[This event] gets [students] thinking about careers historically predominated by men.”
Jennette Smith, editor of Crain's Detroit Business, said men hold three-quarters of jobs in real estate. She also said men also make a median salary of $150,000 compared to a median salary of $115,000 for women.
Nicole Blocker, a representative from L.S. Brinker Company, spoke at the round table portion of the event. She said some things are magnified being a woman in the commercial real estate industry.
“Sometimes I walk into a meeting and I am the only woman,” Blocker said. “A lot of times it was an older man that did not see me as a project manager.”
Despite the challenges she faced, she said the bottom line was “progress and profit” and earning respect through these means is important for women in the industry.
“I wish I had known about what [the panelists] had to say when I was younger,” said Mary Anne Wilson, chairperson of CREW Detroit’s Outreach Committee.
“Being in Detroit, you hear names like Dan Gilbert and Mike Ilitch,” said WSU business student Maria Arpino.
She said they are great figures of city, but it would be naive to think women are not involved.