Collete English Dixon is the executive director of Roosevelt University Marshall Bennett Institute of Real Estate. Prior to that, she spent more than 30 years in investment management, with a focus on commercial real estate.
What is unique about the Marshall Bennett program at Roosevelt?
The university attracts a very diverse pool of young talent. Sixty percent of students enrolled in our Master of Science in Real Estate and MBA, with a concentration in real estate, programs are people of color. On top of that, 45 percent of students are women.
That is a unique position to work from. My goal is to continue to attract the most energetic, engaged and ready to be top-of-the-world future real estate leaders. I’m excited to note we’re launching a BS/BA with a concentration in real estate in the fall of 2018. I really do believe that this will be a great opportunity for the program to deliver a true pipeline of talent into the industry.
Are there particular challenges attracting women to commercial real estate?
The biggest problem isn’t getting them in the door to the industry, it’s keeping them there. The retention and advancement of women is clearly lagging.
The challenges vary by sector. For example, many young women struggle to stay in brokerage positions like investment sales or leasing because of the risks and the compensation model. Roles that are 100 percent commission-based have seemed to be harder for women to engage in. You also don’t see a lot of women in development due to the capital requirements.
In some disciplines there aren’t enough role models because women haven’t held those roles, or stayed in those roles, or they’re not as visible. So, we’ve got to work on highlighting female role models so that everybody can see that there are many ways to engage successfully in the industry.
Is there any advice you received early in your career that stands out?
One of the things I heard, which took me a long time to appreciate, was that you don’t always have to prove that you’re the smartest person in the room. Sometimes it is more effective to allow other people’s light to shine, for you to be able to influence and direct things as part of the broader collaborative effort.
What are your thoughts on maneuvering through the current real estate cycle?
We are in a cycle that has been incredibly long. Information and knowledge gathering is key right now. That includes looking at all the external economic forces that are impacting the U.S. economy, the whole geo-political environment that can impact capital flows, as well as issues with respect to climate change. Understanding how all those things can impact this industry will hopefully allow people to see the signs of change that they need to adapt to, or prepare for, sooner rather than later.
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