Press | More Women Getting Involved | San Antonio Business Journal
Press | More Women Getting Involved | San Antonio Business Journal

Deborah Bauer
March 2, 2007
More Women Getting Involved in Real Estate’s Bigger Deals
by Randy Lankford

Deborah Bauer, the president of Drake Commercial Group, is used to dealing in big numbers. Three of the deals she’s closed last year were valued at $29 million, $35 million and $40 million. But commercial real estate hasn’t always been so welcoming to women. That’s why Bauer chose her company’s name from the Chicago phone book.

“It’s named after the Drake Hotel,” she says with a laugh. “I wanted to give it a strong name. When I started the company in Austin in 1980, I was recently divorced and had to feed my children. I didn’t have an education and had never worked outside the home before. I thought I would get into real estate. I found I was blessed with a gift for sales and loved it.

“Back then, it wasn’t readily accepted for a woman to be the president of the company. It was just easier to give the company a strong name and defer to someone else being in charge,” she adds.

“Fortunately, things have changed since then. Now, if you know what you’re talking about, men will respect you,” Bauer adds.

And she credits organizations like Commercial Real Estate Women—San Antonio (CREW) with much of that change in attitude.

“They’ve helped educate women on how to deal with the workplace,” she says. “I think woman might have worked too hard at trying to compete against men instead of just doing the job and being professional. I think CREW has been instrumental in an educational way, teaching women how to network and make contacts.”

It’s happening more and more that there are CREW members involved in deals,” she adds. “I end up working with CREW members quite often. It’s a great part of this business to be able to refer things back and forth and be able to work together.”

One of the deals Bauer closed last year involved CREW member Martha Hardy, an attorney with Drenner & Golden Stuart Wolff LLP.

“Deborah was the seller’s broker and I was the attorney for the purchaser,” Hardy says. “I’ve known her for a long time and it was easy for me to get the information I needed for my due diligence because I had that connection. We met at a CREW function. We were at a luncheon and started chatting.”

One of the goals of CREW, a national networking organization established locally in 1983 for women in the commercial real estate business, is to help woman achieve parity in the industry. San Antonio chapter president Teresa Ereon Giltner, a real estate attorney with Cox Smith Matthews Inc., says achieving CREW’s goal is a marathon, not a sprint.

“You don’t necessarily see the results the first day,” she adds. “It’s an ongoing process, as with any networking group. I’d say we’re moving toward women achieving parity.”

Giltner adds, however, that woman are getting more chances to prove their abilities as San Antonio’s growth causes changes in the way the real estate business operates.

“I’ve been in San Antonio a little over 20 years and in that time San Antonio has been ‘discovered’ and achieved more of a national reputation,” Giltner says. “Women and minorities are more in the spotlight because of that. So as those diversity issues become more important, we’re all learning we each have something to offer in a particular deal. A lot of it is just personality. I think that it’s less likely now for someone to say, ‘Oh, we need a male,’ or ‘Oh we need a female,’ rather than, this is the type of person we need,’ without attaching any gender to it. Organizations like CREW give women an opportunity to come up through the ranks and be a leader. If you’re a hard worker, we can always use you.”

Mark Granados, managing partner of Hill Partners Inc., has seen the same change in attitude. Since the early 1990s he’s been involved in more than $1 billion worth of shopping center transactions and redevelopments and has grown to expect women in high-level real estate roles.

“Twenty five years ago the only women in the real estate business were residential realtors,” he says. “Today, it’s very rare that we’re involved in a transaction where women don’t play a significant role.

“They’re involved in all phases,” he continues. “It could be either the closing agent at the title company or an attorney for one of the buyers or sellers. We’ve been in transactions where the closing agent was a female, one of the attorneys for the bank was a female and one of the attorneys we used was female, so they’re involved in every aspect of the deal.”

Granados sees women making more inroads in the transactional sides of the business—leasing and brokering, title, legal and banking areas—more than in more hardscape aspects of the industry. “They’re probably still underrepresented in architecture and engineering, although we’ve used Pape Dawson (Engineers Inc.) on some of our projects, and they have some very talented, qualified women involved in high levels of their engineering projects,” he says.

But women aren’t the only ones who have benefited from belonging to CREW. Today, men make up 30 percent of the membership—and many of them credit the organization with helping them stay connected to the industry.

Supporting the organization and being a member is one thing. Mike Molak, executive vice president of Plains Capital Bank, has taken his involvement a step further. He is one of two men, along with Steve Craig of LandAmerica Lawyer’s Title, on the board of directors of CREW. He says his participation is partly for his own sake and partly for his daughter’s.

“CREW is an organization that allows professional to get to know each other outside of just a business transaction,” he explains. “There’s a level of comfort you get from working together with people outside of that environment, on projects like luncheons and forums.”

“I also have a 9-year-old daughter, and I’m committed to seeing that she has every opportunity her potential will allow,” Molak says. “Going back even further, I was raised by a single mother with three children who worked her way through college to earn a master’s degree. Any organization that’s committed to helping someone up the ladder through inclusion and education, you can count me in.

“I’ve certainly seen women advance in the industry through CREW,” Molak continues. “They are making some of the largest deals and running some of the largest companies in town, so they are certainly achieving that parity. I’ve been in the industry long enough that I remember a time when women weren’t at that upper echelon.”

Doreen Chacon, an executive vice president at AmeriPoint Title Co., concurs.

“The industry is looking for people who are going to do their job and do it right,” she says. “I see more and more women being successful in commercial real estate. Quite frankly, it used to be a good ol’ boy’s club and the fact that there’s even a group now for women says tons. I interact with a lot of women who are members of CREW. They have made significant steps forward in getting women a stronger position in the industry.”

Granados agrees that talented people will rise to the top of the industry.

“You still occasionally run into a little bit of the good ol’ boy network, but most of us are more concerned with finding someone who can do the job at the right price and at the level of expertise and quality we need,” he says. “We just need talent. We’re looking for producers and performers, in the sense that someone can handle the work we need done. You don’t have time to worry about whether that someone is a man or a woman. Our issue right now is finding enough people, male or female, to do all the work we have going on.”

Giltner of Cox Smith Matthews sums up CREW’s support of women in the marketplace.

“I know that national studies show that women in real estate—and in other professions as well—still have a ways to go, but I like to think that we’re certainly making an impact,” she says. “If you’ve got people who care about the industry and care about the way real estate is practiced in San Antonio, that’s ultimately good for everybody. We’re all competitors in the field and friends at dinner, but we’re all working to up that level rather than bring it down. While that’s probably true in other communities, it seems to be more so here.”

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