ATX Real Estate News sponsor DeLea Becker, founder of Beck-Reit Commercial Real Estate, is a vigorous supporter of women in the industry — and women in general.
Former Texas Governor Anne Richards remains a source of inspiration to her.
“I adore Anne Richards and this is one of my favorite quotes: ‘After all, Ginger Rogers did everything that Fred Astaire did. She just did it backwards and in high heels,’” Becker said.
Often women have to perform at a higher level than their male counterparts, particularly in the competitive field of commercial real estate, Becker added. A woman’s natural ability to multitask, problem solve and project manage every aspect of leasing, sales and development makes her the ideal team member and team leader.
“We run the house, take care of kids, take care of aging parents all while running our businesses. We juggle it all and that is exactly why we love the challenge so much,” Becker said.
There’s an even deeper thread of inspiration.
“I have had the pleasure of watching women generations before me work up the ranks and never bat an eye at inequalities,” Becker said. “Their steadfast desire to achieve at the top levels in their fields paved the way for my generation and many to come.”
As the 2019 president of Central Texas Commercial Association of Realtors, Becker wanted to celebrate and support some of the young women in Austin real estate who are excelling at a high level.
I reached out to a wide spectrum of young female real estate executives in Austin’s real estate community and heard back from more than a dozen.
One started working in tobacco fields in Georgia as a teen. Another interned during college with Red McCombs, one of the most famous — and wealthy — businessmen ever in Texas.
You’ll meet a young woman who earned her master’s degree from Johns Hopkins University and another who fell in love with the development business as a civil engineer.
All have strong, thoughtful opinions — a refreshing level of candor and boundless determination.
DeLea and I salute you all!
Position: Office leasing consultant
Years in real estate: 12 in real estate, 6 in commercial
Education: University of Texas. Bachelor’s degree in economics with concentrations in finance and architecture.
First job: Interning for Red McCombs while in my final year at Texas. I was given a lot of responsibility with the sink-or-swim mentality. Thankfully I learned how to swim. Hook ’em.
What prompted you to get into real estate: I pitched my residential landlord at 18 to remodel his property. Little did I know he would later accept and put me in charge as the local project manager. This triggered me to educate myself and move on to bigger and more complicated projects.
Why is it a good career choice for women: I find that as a woman I am are more memorable. Luckily many of my personality traits are conducive to the CRE industry: effective communication, persistence, tactical approach, multitasking, firm planning and execution.
Why are women so inequitably represented in real estate: I have not figured this one out. I do find people hire their friends the first time and after there are missteps seek out professionals regardless if they are a man or woman. This is where I truly shine by virtue of my reputation and experience.
Why aren’t there more women CEOs or entrepreneurs in real estate in Austin: I think there is a generational gap here. I find there are many more women in the commercial real estate industry at my level versus seniors who entered decades ago. I would hope this is an indication that times are a changing and expect more women CEOs to follow.
What advice would you give to women in college about getting into real estate: Never underestimate yourself or the power of persistence. Reach out to people and ask questions. I was turned down for several internships before I got my foot in the door.
What’s the most challenging aspect of working in commercial real estate as a woman: I’m an independent contractor and our health insurance is geared towards men. I would say this is a much larger problem about healthcare costs today.
What is your hairy audacious goal: #1 Power Broker. Much less hairy than in years past.
What’s your secret sauce: I’m persistent and readily available. I’ve been told I answer on the first ring. I’m also extremely passionate about what I do. I might not remember the restaurant I went to six months ago but I can tell you about almost every office building in town. My hat trick is knowing where your office is when you tell me what company you work for.
Company: The Retail Strategy Real Estate Group
Position: Founder and CEO
Years in real estate: 15
Education: University of Texas, 2002 – 2006. Degree in finance with real estate concentration.
First job: Swim coach for neighborhood swim team at age 15
What prompted you to get into real estate: I enjoyed figuring out why new retailers would expand to an area … and how they connected all of the puzzle pieces to secure a site and open a location. I also owned a franchise in college and was fascinated by the ability to scale a brand through the franchise system.
Why is it a good career choice for women: Women have a strong ability to multitask and see how all the pieces come together. Being able to listen and read what people are expressing is also a huge component to be successful in the commercial real estate business.
Why are women so inequitably represented in real estate: Although I am seeing more women join the industry — and we have several female clients — I believe that the challenge has been the long lead time to build a pipeline and limited networking opportunities. This is a relationship business and guys do an excellent job of fostering and maintaining the relationships on the golf course, through hunting trips etc. It seems females sometimes don’t organically reach out to connect as often.
Why aren’t there more women CEOs or entrepreneurs in real estate in Austin: It seems that there are more females in the leadership roles in the residential real estate arena versus the commercial platform. I believe this role requires a strong background in problem solving and understanding financial metrics. I work on teams with several men and enjoy collaborating on how to best leverage negotiations and enjoy the different perspectives we both bring to the table. Often our client’s customer is mostly female and it is helpful to be able to relate to a client not only as a real estate professional but as a customer.
What advice would you give to women in college about getting into real estate: There are varieties of paths to take and I would encourage them to try out several internships. It is important to find a niche you enjoy and can become an expert on versus to dabble in too many areas.
What’s the most challenging aspect of working in commercial real estate as a woman: There are constantly several clients with multiple projects in various stages that all need to move forward. It is challenging to not miss the details, while keeping momentum on next steps and dealing with different types of communication styles. I have had to learn to adjust the way I communicate. It’s important to provide regular updates to the team and client.
Your hairy audacious goal: Our industry has not always had a great reputation — being a “used car salesman” — so my goal is to make a positive impact by serving brands nationally with top notch service. We have Columbus (Ohio), Houston and Washington DC satellite offices, but I would love to have more presence in other markets and be able to provide a full-service outsourced retail real estate platform to more brands looking to grow.
What’s your secret sauce: I thoroughly enjoy cultivating new relationships and develop a long-term strategic plan, efficiently utilizing our innovative location intelligence. Our business is both art and science, and I love creating the road map plus visuals to expand a brand’s market presence beyond their expectations! A good retail aerial is worth a 1000 words.
Company: AQUILA Commercial
Years in real estate: 13
Education: Texas A&M University, 2000-2004, bachelor’s degree in business administration and marketing
First job: My dad instilled the values of work at an early age. When I was in high school, I worked at the local yogurt shop and tea room as a waitress during summers to earn a little fun money.
What prompted you to get into real estate: My older brother started in commercial real estate in Dallas straight out of college. He’s always been successful and a huge influence in my life. When I looked to him for direction and career advice, he encouraged me to consider commercial real estate.
Why is it a good career choice for women: Commercial real estate is a good choice for women, especially working moms, because of the income potential and flexible schedule. The income can fluctuate quite a bit, but there isn’t a ceiling on what you can make. It has given me the ability to continue working after I had kids. Also, real estate has given me the ability make my own schedule. While my hours are flexible, I try and stick to a normal work week and avoid working nights and weekends so I can spend time with my family. Additionally, I found that since there aren’t many women in real estate, it’s a great way to stand out.
Why are women so inequitably represented in real estate:Historically sales, especially commercial real estate, has been dominated by males. This paradigm is shifting as more women become wildly successful. It paves the way for other females. I think in the past women felt like they had to choose between work and family. However, times are changing and more women realize that they can do both and want both. The flexible schedules, technology at my fingertips and supportive teammates have made it possible for me to have a great work/life balance.
What advice would you give to women in college about getting into real estate: Make sure sales is right for you. If you are uncomfortable with fluctuating income and an “eat what you kill” mentality, this may not be the right profession. If commercial real estate is right for you, take your time to find the right company/team. Your immediate team and leadership will be some of the biggest factors in your long-term success. Find a team that believes in and supports each other.
What’s the most challenging aspect of working in commercial real estate as a woman: There is no shortage of networking events focused on typical male bonding such as fishing, hunting, and golf and ski trips. Women aren’t normally invited on these outings so you have to find your own way to connect with decision makers.
What is your hairy audacious goal: Being the #1 producer at AQUILA.
What’s your secret sauce: There is no secret sauce. Working hard to add value to my clients and team is all I really care about. The rest falls into place.
Position: Urban designer
Years in real estate: 9
Education: Kansas State University, graduating in 2011 with a master’s degree in landscape architecture.
First job: My first real estate-related job was a summer internship with an architect in my hometown of Evergreen, Colo., working on equestrian architecture, private stables, commercial barns, etc. I grew up riding and have a certificate in equine science from Kansas State, and I still ride regularly at a place in Manor.
What prompted you to get into real estate: In high school I thought I wanted to be an interior designer. I honestly think this came from watching Trading Spaces with my parents growing up, so I took a few CAD classes and was looking at design schools for college. My parents are K-State alumni. K-State has a highly-ranked design program, and when I visited the campus I fell in love, so it was an easy choice to attend there. The first year at K-state’s College of Architecture, Planning & Design all students are in a combined Environmental Design program and you specialize your second year. I went in thinking I would major in interior architecture but was quickly drawn to the work I saw in the landscape architecture studios, so I ended up going that direction.
Why is it a good career choice for women: Real estate affects everyone, so everyone needs to be represented! Especially on the design side, it is so important for our teams to have diverse backgrounds so that we are designing spaces and places that engage and provide for all users. For example, whoever thought up clear glass stair treads has obviously never worn a skirt!
Why are women so inequitably represented in real estate: Architecture and planning is a really demanding field for anyone, and it’s even harder if you are coming in anything less than being 100% set up for success — financially, physically, situationally — without anything else to worry about. This likely did not fit well with gender norms of the past and therefore there hasn’t been a lot of female representation in the industry, especially at the higher ranks. I do feel like the number of women in the design side of the industry is starting to balance out. Honestly a bigger concern for me right now is the lack of racial diversity I see in architecture and planning. Here’s a crazy/scary stat: In Austin in 2016 fewer than 0.1 percent of more than 1,100 licensed architects are African-American, according to Austin Woman magazine.
Why aren’t there more women CEOs or entrepreneurs in real estate in Austin: Building off the conversation from the previous answer, women have started to get into the industry in higher numbers, but the path to success in the architecture world is long (education, experience, licensure), so it takes awhile to rise to the top. Given that women were not more represented until recently, it will take time for the demographic shift we are seeing in entry- and mid-levels to permeate to the upper ranks of the profession. But make no mistake, it will be happening soon. I am surrounded by too many amazing women for it not to! Also it’s hard to be the first in anything. We have to give kudos to those women who are at the top of the profession right now, because you know it wasn’t easy and they likely had to go it alone most of the time. We are lucky right now to have some great female leaders to look up to, but there of course need to be more!
What advice would you give to women in college about getting into real estate: It will be hard work — the profession demands it. Find a solid group of ladies to commiserate with when necessary. But really, real estate is a rewarding career where you get to tangibly see your work come to life. It’s also a career that comes with a lot of responsibility, in that it has the ability to affect a community’s health, economy and overall quality of life. Our projects are long-lasting and have large, wide-spread consequences. Don’t overlook that aspect and try to do the most good with your work.
What’s the most challenging aspect of working in commercial real estate as a woman: How demanding it is and being able to balance that with life, that ever elusive work-life balance! It may be cliché, but it really is the hardest part, IMO. As a woman who does not have children yet, I often wonder how working mothers in real estate do it. But they do, and women are nothing if not resilient. We have a special way of figuring out how to get things done and make it all work. Also our blessing is also our curse in that a great thing about our projects is that they can and do affect lives. This can also be a heavy burden and a lot of pressure when you really begin to understand the magnitude of what we do and how much effect it can have on people.
What is your hairy audacious goal: To leave the world a better place! But really, if my projects have a net positive impact, then my career has been successful. I find it hard to say that my ultimate goal is working towards a certain title or something like that, because really who knows what the future holds? My dream project has always been to design the equestrian facilities for the Olympics!
What’s your secret sauce: Finding alignment between groups with seemingly dissimilar interests. It takes a certain skill to get a bunch of people in a room together who have different goals for a project and get them to leave convinced to work together towards a singular vision. This is the secret sauce to any big planning project: you must get all the stakeholders on board and support the project or it will be easily dismissed and disregarded — fated to sit on a shelf collecting dust, which is the worst fate imaginable for a planning document.
What advice would you give to women in college about getting into real estate: Get involved. Real estate is a complicated industry and whatever part you are playing, you will be a link in a very long chain of people involved in getting a project done. It is super beneficial to get to know those other roles in the industry, especially those that you do not work with regularly and understand what they do and where they are coming from. Personally, I have found the Urban Land Institute to be most valuable to me, but there are many great industry groups out there. Find one that piques your interest and jump in, especially early on in your career.
Company: Stream Realty Partners
Position: Vice president — investments
Years in real estate: 9
Education: Texas Tech University, bachelor’s degree in marketing. Johns Hopkins University, MBA with concentration in finance.
First job: Account manager for C.H. Robinson (transportation/logistics company)
What prompted you to get into real estate: The idea of purchasing and developing iconic real estate was extremely interesting to me. It still is!
Why is it a good career choice for women: I believe women have the opportunity to open a lot of doors that may be more difficult for men to do in terms of gaining access to property owners and potential future deals.
Why aren’t there more women CEOs or entrepreneurs in real estate in Austin: I think real estate has traditionally been a male-dominated industry. However, there are several extremely bright and successful female professionals in Austin that I believe will change that notion sooner rather than later.
What advice would you give to women in college about getting into real estate: Look at real estate as the opportunity to combine your greatest strengths socially with your greatest strengths mentally. There are very few jobs out there that require both, which makes it all the more appealing!
What’s the most challenging aspect of working in commercial real estate as a woman: At times I believe women can be underestimated in this industry, but I also look at that as one of our greatest competitive advantages.
What’s your secret sauce: I’m pretty tenacious, which can be a great strength or weakness depending on the day and who you’re asking!
Position: Associate tenant rep broker
Years in real estate: 3.5, 1 year in current role.
Education: University of Texas, 2010-2014, bachelor’s degree in corporate communications and in Hispanic studies with a business foundations certificate.
First job: Marketing and sales at an accounting software firm in Dallas.
What prompted you to get into real estate: Word of mouth — a former colleague moved to CBRE in Dallas and referred me for an internal position here in Austin. Once introduced to commercial real estate, I found the industry to be intriguing, engaging and refreshingly fast-paced.
Why is it a good career choice for women: For anyone willing to work hard and hustle, the sky is the limit in commercial real estate in terms of income and growth potential. For women in particular, I feel that we are often able to provide alternative insights for clients, making us valued, and increasingly necessary members of the team. In addition, commercial real estate can allow for a more flexible schedule which works well for those, both men and women, who have young families.
What advice would you give to women in college about getting into real estate: Get out there, start meeting people and remember that you are always networking. You never know when you might need that contact in the future! Your network can be a tremendous asset when just starting any career.
What’s the most challenging aspect of working in commercial real estate as a woman: Always remembering that confidence is key. My clients are depending on me to best represent their interests and negotiate on their behalf. To do this my confidence translates into their confidence in my abilities. This is universal, I think, regardless of gender.
What’s your secret sauce? My thirst for knowledge. In this industry you need to constantly adapt your strategies and your capabilities to remain competitive and a valuable asset for your clients. As opposed to finding this daunting, I enjoy the challenge and thrill of constantly learning.
Company: Austin Board of REALTORS®
Position: Chief executive officer
Years in real estate: 13
Education: University of Texas, 2002-2005 bachelor’s degree in government.
First job: My first job after college was with Newland Communities as the developer’s marketing coordinator. In this role, I managed all marketing efforts for two master-planned communities in Central Texas. This also included coordinating builder retreats, quarterly sales meetings and REALTOR® events.
What prompted you to get into real estate: My experience with the REALTOR® community began when I was hired as the government affairs and TREPAC coordinator for ABoR. In this role, I was able to marry my love of politics and policy with a special interest that has an awesome impact on our quality of life and community at large.
Why are women so inequitably represented in real estate: Women are inequitably represented in many industries. This challenge isn’t unique to real estate. I stand on the shoulders of some iconic female leaders who have paved the way on the residential side of our industry. Names like Ebby Halliday and Sherry Chris come to mind when I think about that history. That said, we have a lot of work to do. As the first female CEO of the Austin Board of REALTORS®, I know I’m helping provide our female members and the women I work with a new idea of what leadership looks like at ABoR. It’s important that I set an example for my team and balance my personal and professional commitments. I’m very transparent about the time I spend with my young boys, my youngest son’s medical trauma and the fact that my husband is a stay-at-home parent. I am able to do my job with an amazing team at ABoR, and the partnership that Hunter (my husband) and I share is paramount to my success as a mother and CEO.
Why aren’t there more women CEOs or entrepreneurs in real estate in Austin: In the same ways women struggle to gain traction in leadership in other industries, it just takes time to reverse old ways of thinking and support new ideas that benefit diversity. With continued encouragement and a little grit, we’ll see more women stepping up and being recognized for their contributions to our local market.
What advice would you give to women in college about getting into real estate: My general advice for pursuing anything hard is to never shy away from being who you are and never apologize for being direct. Sure, you can get a lot of bees with honey, but it’s ok to put your stake in the ground sometimes. Men are respected for their hardnose negotiating in this business and you can be too. More specifically, working in real estate is chock full of opportunities for a huge variety of skill sets and personalities. If you want to wake up hungry to work and make a way for yourself, you’ll never be involved with a more determined and driven community of professionals.
What’s the most challenging aspect of working in commercial real estate as a woman: The most challenging part of my position is staying on top of the fires. Serving 13,000 REALTORS® through our association programming and MLS system is no small task and every day is a little different. Coincidentally, that’s also my favorite thing about my job. Our members depend on ABoR to make their business work, and I feel the pressure of ensuring their needs are met so they are successful.
What’s your secret sauce: I’m a communicator through and through. I talk fast and listen intently. At the end of the day, most conflicts and chaos can be managed through honest and open communication. Not everybody is great at taking on hard conversations head-on but avoiding them never works. I’ve found that through my communication skills, much of my success has been found in maintaining strong relationships and a wide network
Lincoln Property represents WeWork in Rainey District development; meet the irrepressible Jay Lamy; what about Austin’s homeless debacle?
WCC faces new lawsuits; Moton Crockett passes at 96; More on WeWork, Amherst Holdings, 2020 Austin Parade of Homes
Even with nearly 1,700 rooms delivered this year, the average occupancy rate is a superb 77 percent, the highest in the state, according to Source Strategies, a hospitality research and data firm based in San Antonio.