One is brokering office space in the heart of uptown Charlotte. Another struck out on her own and is debuting as a developer. A third successfully merged the company she founded with another business so she could go after more projects.
These are three of the women making waves in what has traditionally been a male-dominated field in Charlotte and elsewhere: Commercial real estate.
While the industry remains male-dominated, studies show the ranks of women are growing.
Over time, Ive seen more women get into the business, said Tony Ciochetti, Thomas G. Eastman chair and chairman, MIT Center for Real Estate.
Ciochetti said he estimates, depending on the year and the type of program being pursued, that somewhere between 25 percent and 40 percent of people enrolling real estate graduate programs today are women. He said the majority of those who pursue a focused degree in real estate end up in the commercial real estate field.
In Charlotte, the local chapter of Commercial Real Estate Women has almost doubled in size in the past eight years to 220 members, said Barbara Briccotto, president-elect of CREW Charlotte.
What follows are the stories of three local women Diane Rivers, Wendy Field and Rhea Greene who are making their mark in commercial real estate.
62, managing partner at Brackett Flagship Properties
Industry experience: 31 years
Specialty: Health care-related development and acquisitions
Advice: Learn to separate work from the other parts of your life. You have to learn how to leave things at the office. You really have to learn not to just worry all the time about everything youre doing, she says.
When the real estate company she was working for in the 80s wouldnt allow her to switch from leasing to development, Diane Rivers quit. Her career goal was to become a developer, and she wouldnt be held back.
So Rivers started her own business, the Brackett Company, in 1985.
I started with nothing, she says. I had no money. I was just starting from pure guts.
Since then, Rivers business has grown while shes made a name for herself, in large part by developing medical office buildings in and around Charlotte.
Rivers has overseen the development of more than 30 projects, totaling 1.2 million square feet and valued at more than $200 million.
In 2010, Brackett Company merged with Flagship Capital Partners to form Brackett Flagship Properties. Rivers, a managing partner, said the merger is one of the career accomplishments shes most proud of, and its helping the company create a regional reputation.
Getting here wasnt easy: When she first started working with contractors and architects, they would talk around her, she says.
They talked to everybody in the room but me because I guess they just did not realize that truly I was the developer and I was going to be signing their paychecks, she says.
Rivers says one of the keys to her success was believing in herself and maintaining a positive attitude.
You have to have confidence in yourself and then hope that people pick up on that and then they get confident in you, she says.
51, president of Wendy Field Consulting
Industry experience: 22 years
Specialty: Multifamily development
Advice: Learn all the disciplines within commercial real estate. Try to learn every facet of it and not be too eager to be at the top right away, she says.
Wendy Field is making her debut as a solo developer at a time when a down economy is hitting the commercial real estate industry hard. But Field is confident in her decision to move forward with a new townhouse project in Dilworth.
Theres always a market for the good things, she says.
Although this is her debut as a solo developer, Field has more than two decades of experience in different areas of commercial real estate. She studied interior design, worked in corporate real estate and was on the development team for the first two condominium projects in uptown Charlotte with Bank of America.
Ive covered every role on a project so I really know every detail of it, she says.
Field started her own business, Wendy Field Consulting, in 2001. She works from home and hires others, such as construction workers and architects, to help her on a per-project basis.
Two young women have joined Fields business as interns for the summer, giving them an opportunity to be exposed to commercial real estate.
Its a tough industry for women, she says. There arent a lot of women in it and so I think women dont get into it because of that.
Field said she hopes to serve as a mentor to her interns.
Fields project Cottages on Euclid will feature 19 New England-style two- and three-bedroom residences for sale. The plan is to have the first five units constructed by the end of the year.
28, senior leasing agent with Trinity Partners
Industry experience: Seven years
Specialty: Office leasing
Advice: Network and find a mentor. The key is having a good mentor just to get your name out, just to introduce you to new people so if there is a new opportunity, youre aware of it, she says.
A former college volleyball player, Rhea Greene thrives in a competitive environment an asset when you work on commission.
Its a very competitive environment, says Greene, a senior leasing agent at Trinity Partners. Its not an 8-5 job. So if you want stability, unfortunately, this is probably not the best field for you to get into.
Commercial real estate wasnt on Greenes radar until she had a chance conversation on an airplane with a man who worked for a development firm. After Greene explained to the man that she was interested in sales and marketing, a people-person and self-motivated, he suggested she look into jobs in commercial real estate. And so she did.
Greene got into the development side of the industry right before the recession, and has since moved to brokerage. With Trinity, Greene has worked on leasing uptown buildings such as Bank of America Plaza and 101 Independence Center.
In commercial real estate, Greene doesnt see barriers to entry that are specific to women.
Its not that its exclusive of women, she said, its just that it tends to attract more men.
She said she sees advantages to being a woman in a traditionally male-dominated industry.
You have a different perspective, you have different skill sets, she says. I was attracted when I found out that it was male-dominated. I said, Yes. Bring it on. Staff researcher Maria David contributed.