At the December meeting of the Urban Land Institute Orange County/Inland Empire’s Women’s Leadership Initiative (WLI) Chairwomen Julie Brinkerhoff-Jacobs and Joan Marcus-Colvin hosted a panel Q & A with some of Orange County’s top women leaders. The panel of five women representing both the public and private sectors made both their personal and professional lives the central focus of the meeting. The ULI OC/IE Women’s Leadership Initiative seeks to promote the advancement of women throughout their careers, to increase the number of women who serve in leadership positions, increase visibility of women leaders in the real estate industry and in ULI, and increase the number of women who are active ULI full members. The initiative also aims to support the development of young ULI member women as leaders in the organization and in their professions.
Moderator Joan Marcus-Colvin, Chief Marketing Officer for The New Home Company, introduced the panel which included Newport Beach Mayor, Diane Dixon, Lucy Dunn, President and CEO of the Orange County Business Council, Tricia Esser, CEO of KTGY Architects + Planning, and Kimberly McKay, Executive Vice President of BRIDGE Housing. Ms. Marcus-Colvin invited the women to address the goals and challenges of women in the industry and community, and describe what they felt are the most significant barriers to female leadership.
Mayor Dixon shared that while she never felt barriers to achieving her goals, policy mandates supported her goals. She spoke of gaining ground through involvement in nonprofit organizations where she developed her skills while proving an asset to the non profit. She is in the midst of writing a book about the many strong women she has known over the years. Her advice to women is to “Be confident. Be curious.” She urged them to have something to talk about that connects you with your audience/colleague. She added that women need to be creative and courageous.
Lucy Dunn drew insight from the recent election season, noting that women leaders made gains on the state, county and local level. She also sees public service as a way to break through barriers and elevate ones professional profile. She cautioned that women don’t have to do everything today; they are able to find their passion and pursue it if they are willing to negotiate. On her first day on the job at The Irvine Company, she realized that her gift was translating between how real people live and how the corporate side understands and utilizes that information. One of her mottos is to turn red tape into red carpet by helping “the team” become successful, welcoming them to contribute new ideas and solutions.
Tricia Esser agreed that finding out what is most important to you and prioritizing so you can pursue it is a must. “Don’t feel guilty about focusing on you,” she advised. In discussing the changing corporate culture, she told of coming into the industry when it was strictly a man’s world, and seeing the need for changing the dynamics. Especially since women are most likely the ones who make the home buying decision. Her efforts encouraged KTGY to focus on bringing the customer into the conversation about design and planning. The benefits, she said, are significant.
Kimberly McKay chose to pursue her passion by forging a career that focuses on giving back. She spoke favorably about taking chances in the professional arena. “If you hold out for what is meaningful, it can happen,” she counseled. She also called for building a respectful organization, and not asking the staff to do anything you would not be willing to do. Encourage questions from employees so they can succeed. She said she strives to maintain a “reservoir of good will,” and remember who your resources are.
The meeting concluded with a Q & A on how women maintain balance in their personal and professional lives. Each offered insights similar to Ms. Esser’s, “Relax, stop worrying, don’t be a control freak and avoid stress.”