On April 2, at the ULIsf’s Women’s Leadership Initiative (WLI) Organizational Meeting, after 30 years of ULI involvement, chapter Executive Director Elliot Stein found himself in a very unusual situation: he was the only man in the conference room. Yet even though female membership in ULIsf represents a proportion higher than the national average, encountering the opposite gender balance at a local event is not difficult to imagine. So without developing a separate organization, the WLI means to encourage, promote and train women to become a mainstream presence in the ULI we know and love. Launched nationally at the 2012 Spring Meeting and at several other chapters in recent months, WLI arrived in the Bay Area this Tuesday.
Diane Reid of PNC and Libby Seifel of Seifel Consulting welcomed us, followed by brief Introductions from the approximately 40 attendees. Afterward Reid, chair of WLI, gave an overview of WLI and it mission, which is multi-faceted in both vision and execution. In terms of vision, WLI is designed to assist women in building the fullest careers possible, as well as work to make real estate and land use an attractive career choice for both genders. On the practical side, WLI hosts Peer-to-Peer Women in Real Estate events, provides scholarships to attend the Fall Conference and manages a Linked In group to facilitate greater connectivity amongst like minded professionals. It will also conduct training workshops and track in hard numbers the involvement of women, so as to assess the program’s success.
Results are critical to WLI’s objectives. As head of planning, Seifel generated the metrics necessary for measuring the tangible impact of the initiative. By 2018 the WLI seeks to increase female membership of YLG to 50% (23% in 2012) and at all other ULI levels to at least 30% (now 7% of Board of Directors and Foundation Governors, up to 28% for publically-funded Full Members in 2012). Why 30%? Because Seifel’s research indicates this is the amount necessary to achieve a gender balanced dialogue. And, further research demonstrates a company’s bottom line benefits from such a mix, for a variety of reasons, from a bias towards financial restraint to the ability to maintain a focus on long term results.
As a volunteer driven organization, ULI thrives via collaboration. So next, members of the audience were asked to contribute their point of view on what concerns the WLI should address and what it should aim to accomplish. Several reiterated the desire to operate concurrently with ULI as opposed to in segregation. Also, participants noted the lack of women visible on the entrepreneurial side of the business and wanted to identify ways of bringing more attention to those currently engaged in the sector, in addition to helping aspiring female developers and commercial brokers overcome real or perceived barriers to entry.
Making membership feel open to all interested and talented parties benefits every ULI supporter. Contact Libby Seifel (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Dana Van Galder (email@example.com) to join the Bay Area WLI.
Authored by: Kara Anderson, YLG Member