On the first of October 2019, WLI SF tossed open the conference room doors at Prologis to forty-four female college students seeking exposure and introductions to the commercial real estate industry. Gayle Starr, thirty-five year industry veteran and senior leader at Prologis, opened the 3rd annual event with a strong call to action: “We need to fill our pipeline of women from the bottom up, right out of school, if we have any hope of growing more women into leadership positions at the very top.“
The goal of the evening is always to inspire and educate students from all majors and backgrounds to consider a path in real estate. In the days following the event, each student receives one-on-one informational interviews with partnered companies that pique their interest, with the promise of a shot at a summer internship with that firm.
Close to thirty women industry leaders lined the walls of the room, each sharing how she got her career started and what excites her about the always-changing world of real estate. Then, in intimate roundtable breakouts organized by field, students had the chance to ask questions in a personal, comfortable way. Across the tables, the topics ranged from which skillsets to focus on in school, to discussions about gender balance across the industry and how to navigate these challenges, to proper etiquette when asking for coffee meetings.
As we see every year, the inspiring moments from these events go both ways. Our industry advocates and speakers leave with renewed energy and hope for a diverse and vibrant future. Olya Krasnykh from Sares Regis noted, “We need more women in leadership roles. Because we aren’t going to get there unless we start with recruitment. That in itself was inspiring. But beyond that, there were a couple male students in the audience also. One of them asked: ‘How do I be a better ally?’ Because we all need to be advocates, not just those of us who belong to a minority group.“
The event doubled its internship offerings this year, calling upon 26 local firms to share their opportunities and access this pipeline of eager, ambitious talent. We’re growing steadily, and this fledgling idea born in San Francisco three years ago has spread through WLI as a national initiative. Los Angeles, New York, and soon Chicago have all hosted their own student internship events, gaining momentum and support across the country.