Cushman & Wakefield’s Rachel Pittard on Opportunity, Responsibility and More
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – October 13, 2011 – (RealEstateRama) — While the contingent of female industrial real estate professionals certainly has expanded in this traditionally male-dominated industry, a notable gender gap persists. Yet when Rachel Pittard decided to make a career shift from her role as a freelance marketing consultant two years ago, she saw this not as an obstacle but as an opportunity.
In 2009, at age 30, she landed at commercial real estate services firm Cushman & Wakefield, Inc. in East Rutherford, and quickly established herself in the industrial brokerage sector. In the following interview, Pittard discusses the opportunities, challenges and responsibilities associated with being a woman in this highly competitive and male dominated environment.
What drew you to commercial real estate and to the industrial side of the business, in particular?
When I decided to get a real estate license in 2008, the market was just beginning to tank. It was pretty clear that commercial was the right choice over residential at that time. Thinking in terms of an eventual economic rebound, the return on investment – both in terms of time and earnings – seemed to have more potential. I just did some math. When I began to investigate commercial avenues, it soon became apparent that the landscape was extremely competitive and the lack of women in the industrial arena provided an opportunity for me to distinguish myself. Commercial real estate in general is male dominated, and for some reason industrial brokerage is even more of a “no woman’s land.”
In what way is your gender an advantage?
When my team approaches a company about our real estate services capabilities, we stand out because we represent everyone on the other side of the board room table –not just the men in that room. That resonates with companies whose decision makers are women. Additionally, the way women approach things and the way that men approach things can be very different. When you bring both perspectives together, you benefit the process and the outcome. Cushman & Wakefield as a company certainly embraces that balance. The firm has some outstanding female leadership within its service lines. However, at the end of the day it does not matter if you’re wearing pants or skirt. The keys to success have more to do with knowing your market, knowing how to negotiate on behalf of your client and understanding your client’s priorities.
Are there disadvantages?
I think that if you choose to see barriers, you somehow make them a reality; not acknowledging such things is the way to go. I have no idea what a glass ceiling actually is. I get very little push back by prospects in terms of my being a woman. I am sure there is a level of old-school thinking and perhaps some cultural norms that lead some male executives to favor working with male real estate professionals. The good news for such cases is that my senior partners are some of the most talented and well-respected men in the industrial services arena.
Male or female, real estate brokerage is a highly competitive business. As a relative newcomer, what does it take to stake a claim?
You need a purpose, a mentor and a support network. You need to be diligent about engineering your own path, and you need to follow through with your commitments. People gravitate toward excellence and those who do what they say. Those traits will propel anyone forward.
Have your female peers entered into your support network?
How do you know where you are without a point of reference? When you are one of a dozen or so who do what you do, it is important to wave hello to each other often. It is evident that the women who succeed in this industry are those who conduct themselves professionally and strategically. In that sense, all of my female counterparts serve as role models and important points of reference. Internally, Kim Brennan, our Senior Managing Director here in New Jersey, is a great example. She had a successful career as a broker and sales manager in Manhattan and now runs Cushman & Wakefield’s New Jersey offices. She is a big supporter of the development and future success of incoming junior brokers. Amidst managing internal politics, she goes to additional lengths to ensure emerging brokers get access to the resources they need to succeed. At the helm, she is grounded, approachable and enthusiastic.
You also have a commitment to helping others. What is your motivation?
None of us would be successful without the help of others before us. I believe that anyone in a position of leadership and success has an obligation to give back to that cycle of support. I resonate with organizations like Dress For Success, which provides professional clothing and career development services to women in transition – those that are determined and have a plan but who need support in getting there. I understand the struggle that these women face having come from a household run by a single mother. I know that we did not take that journey alone.
Do you have any advice for other women considering a career in industrial real estate?
Now is a great time to get involved in this industry because the market is picking up. This playing field has opportunities for women who have drive, an entrepreneurial spirit and a long-term outlook. Also, she should find a company or team situation that firstly recognizes the value of a woman’s perspective on business development strategy and secondly who wants to offer prospective clients an alternative to the traditional male blue suit.
Evelyn Weiss Francisco: , (201) 796-7788, www.twitter.com/carylcomm