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Zeynep Akman, Class of 2025

This month cultures worldwide recognize and celebrate women’s accomplishments. In what ways, if any, has recognizing these celebrated accomplishments of women in real estate impacted you as a women entering the same career field? Have you come across women working in real estate that you see as role models?

Recognizing the hard work and dedication of women in real estate has definitely empowered me to step into a leadership role in this sector, even though there’s a high barrier to entry (but see presently). It’s also a great opportunity to learn from their work ethic and make note of attributes that helped them be successful in their careers.

Although I haven’t met her, I regard Natalie Diaz, the chief of staff at Time Equities Inc., as a wonderful role model. The firm is almost 60 years old and has many millions square feet of residential and commercial property in its portfolio, both in the US and around the world. Ms. Diaz has been with the company for the last dozen years. She started as an assistant to the founder, Francis Greenburger, the renowned real estate developer, literary agent, and philanthropist. Her current responsibilities include administering and coordinating the firm’s marketing, communications and human resources departments. My acquaintance with her work started with an interview I read in Forbes, published three years back. Ms. Diaz has founded the Women’s Equity Committee at Time Equities, the first of its kind. The committee’s main focus is gender equality at the firm while eyeing the broader goal of maintaining a high level of diversity across the company. Developing a maternity/paternity leave policy, a framework for pay equity, and devising and implementing strategies for the advancement of women in the company have been some impressive accomplishments of the committee.

What prompted you to declare Real Estate as a major, and what have been some of your highlights as a student of the major?

Although I started my college career with the goal of majoring in business, I had a change of
heart after my freshman year. I noticed that it wasn’t what I wanted to pursue and my advisor recommended that I take classes that pique my interest in order to decide what I was passionate about. I took RE 250 during the fall quarter of my sophomore year and was immediately engaged with the class material. I learned a great deal from class discussions and truly appreciated the Professor’s expertise on every subject matter. I knew I wanted to continue my studies in this area.

After declaring Real Estate as a major, I joined the UW Real Estate Club and have had various opportunities to network and have hands-on experience there. Some of the highlights of my association with the club include attending career panels/speaker series, touring properties in the Seattle area, and getting to know students and professionals that share similar interests. Commercial Real Estate has traditionally been a male-dominated industry.

How are women in today’s society working to change that narrative?

I’ve already mentioned the ground-breaking leadership and contributions of Natalie Diaz.
I think a lot of fear instigates around the traditionally male dominated workforce of the real
estate sector. Women are often robbed off of their accomplishments, mistreated, and have to seek friendly support. One of the most important things women are actively doing to change this narrative is creating a more diverse environment. This helps build inclusivity and creates a more comfortable work environment. Women are also breaking stereotypes by taking on more leadership and mentoring roles. Being vocal as a woman influences every other one to be as well. This has allowed them to find and build a strong and warm support system. Celebrating their accomplishments, instead of downplaying their hard work, reminds others that there’s always room for more ambitious women in this industry.

I’ve also noticed first hand that more real estate businesses have now established flexible
schedules for working mothers, thanks to women like Ms. Diaz. It’s a great way to show that you can be successful in your career while also having other responsibilities.

In the area of real estate, why is mentorship important to women?

If you have a mentor and want to discuss the role they play in your professional development don’t hesitate to share your experience. Also if you took part in a professional organization like ULI, CREW, Corenet or other.

It’s crucial for women to know that they are supported in the real estate industry since it’s a male dominated industry. Finding a mentor that’ll not only teach them how to excel in their career but also help them build confidence by offering ongoing support is crucial. With the help of quality mentorship, women will be well prepared to take on the challenges the real estate industry throws at them. They’ll receive invaluable admonition as they navigate their way through the industry. As a woman planning to work in this field, I hope to benefit from such guidance by applying to the RE Club Buddy and Mentor Program. And one day I hope to meet Ms. Diaz in person to tell her my heartfelt appreciation for her drive and persistence.

How can we empower young women interested in real estate careers?

Companies need to realize that representation is one of the most important ways to empower young women seeking career opportunities in real estate. When women are put in highly valued positions that encourage leadership and guidance, they act as role-models for the younger generation. We also need more transparency in the real estate industry, especially regarding pay: there’s still a pretty significant gap between women and men. The glass ceiling needs to be shattered by not only raising awareness, but also speaking up on this ongoing issue. Another way we can empower young women is through training and offering ample opportunities for them to learn about the real estate career. Helping them advance their technical knowledge and expertise will not only decrease discrimination and prejudice. It’ll also build up their self-esteem to take on substantial responsibilities.