Megan Burrows, executive vice president of American Realty Advisors, is in her second year of graduate school, working on a long-distance master’s degree in real estate finance at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. She is also a second-year “Goldie Scholar,®” a two-year program that serves women with extraordinary academic and leadership potential by awarding a cash scholarship, mentoring, networking, and professional development, including a student membership to the Urban Land Institute.
Burrows is a prime example. In 2020, at the same time that she was accepted to graduate school, she was awarded a place in the prestigious Goldie Initiative program; she also underwent a major career change—transitioning from a member of a multifamily asset management team at RREEF to her current role leading a multifamily asset management team of four that oversees $2.2 billion in assets under management (AUM).
Founded by Goldie B. Wolfe Miller in 2007 to give back to the industry and help young women in the real estate field find their way to the C-suite, the Goldie Initiative has assisted more than 100 scholars from 16 top real estate graduate schools across the United States, with a record 28 scholars named in 2021. Wolfe Miller, a ULI member since 1986, was the eighth woman member of the Institute’s Board of Trustees, has served on the ULI Chicago Women’s Leadership Initiative (WLI) Advisory Board and ULI Giving Societies Committee, and is a member of the ULI Industrial and Office Park Development Council (Blue Flight) committee.
Wolfe Miller knows firsthand what it takes to be successful. She founded her tenant representation firm, Goldie B. Wolfe & Company, in 1989; developed it into the largest woman-owned commercial real estate company (executing about $3 billion in real estate transactions); and then sold it to a New York Stock Exchange company in 1998.
“We have the ability to connect a young scholar to the right company, to the right person, and, quite frankly, some of the large corporations are coming to us because they’re in need of top-notch individuals specialized in real estate,” Wolfe Miller says.
In addition to a cash award of $15,000, the scholars are mentored through various programs by the top women in the industry. For example, every April is “Breakfast with Penny Pritzker.” At the breakfast, the scholars practice delivering their elevator speeches for feedback from Wolfe Miller and Pritzker, former U.S. Secretary of Commerce and founder of PSP Capital Partners and Pritzker Realty Group and cofounder of Artemis Real Estate Partners.
Many scholars, like Burrows, say that the biggest benefit is the mentor/mentee component of the program, which includes “Wednesdays with Goldie” during which each scholar is able to spend time with the founder.
Burrow’s assigned mentor is Nicole White, chief legal officer and principal of Avison Young, the first woman of color to hold both titles with the global brokerage. She was introduced to the program by way of the annual fundraising gala through CEO Mark Rose, a gala vice chair and longtime supporter of the Goldie Initiative.
“I was just blown away,” White recalls. “Just at the culture, the energy, the women in the room. I had never seen so many amazing women in the commercial real estate industry at all levels.”
In addition to taking on an assigned scholar (now Burrows) with whom she meets monthly, White is one of 60 mentors in the Mentorship Rocket program, where scholars can sign up for time with mentors of their choice and get advice. For instance, White recalls one Black scholar who told her that she had not seen many mentors of color, nor had she seen mentors who wanted to talk about advancement.
The Goldie Initiative raises money for the scholarships and programming through its annual gala, which not only is a networking opportunity for the scholars and members of the Chicago real estate community, but also a chance to honor iconic women leaders who are role models, like Ventas chairman Debra Cafaro, who was recognized as the 2021 Goldie Gala “Shero” honoree.
The 2022 Shero, Pam Boneham, an active member of the Urban Land Institute’s Industrial and Office Product Council (Silver Flight) who also founded and co-chaired its Chicago WLI Advisory Board, was recently named as an independent member to CBRE Investment Management’s Americas Direct Real Estate Investment Committee, which has responsibility for more than $20 billion of the firm’s $133.1 billion AUM. Among a host of wins, Boneham has served as president of RREEF America REIT Inc., to serving as managing director at Barings. Not only has Boneham been a Goldie mentor, her husband, Paul, who recently retired as co-head of U.S. Asset Management from BentallGreenOak, served as the first male mentor.
Boneham explains, “The Goldie Initiative is the best in class, nurturing and developing a legitimate pipeline of female leaders in the commercial real estate industry. The Goldie Initiative is focused on graduate students studying real estate and who have already developed an interest in and a commitment to our industry, and that’s why it works.”
As part of the Women’s Leadership Initiative’s (WLI) 10th Anniversary stay tuned for Urban Land’s spring 2022 edition when we will spotlight recipients of both WLI’s Prologis Achievement Award and the announcement of the WLI Innovation Grant recipients at Spring Meeting.
SIBLEY FLEMING is editor in chief of Urban Land.