In honor of International Women’s Day, a global celebration of the social, economic, and cultural achievements of women, we had a conversation with Hilary Provinse, Berkadia’s Executive Vice President and Head of Mortgage Banking.
It was a great opportunity to highlight the impact of women in commercial real estate and shed light on the experience of achieving success in a male-dominated career field. Hilary was also able to share with us the lessons she’s learned about how unleashing the power of diversity can enhance the multifamily industry.
What would you say to women in commercial real estate about navigating career challenges and pursuing success?
Provinse: I started my career on Wall Street in the 90s, which was a very aggressive, testosterone-filled environment, to say the least. I’ve always operated in male dominated fields and it hasn’t always been easy. Very early on in my career it was often demoralizing because there were times when I felt alone. I had to look inward to find success: I had to rely on my confidence in my intellectual and analytical abilities and my capacity to execute. I had to tune out the external macho competitiveness and just focus on doing well.
But I also had to look outward: I had to build alliances with others like me and find strength and power in numbers, even though there weren’t very many women. I relied on close female colleagues to buoy me and back me up when I needed support and then I did the same for them. And this continues to this day. I still lean on the networks and relationships I’ve built to sustain me. I’m lucky to have several great female and male mentors who continue to support me.
“I relied on close female colleagues to buoy me and back me up when I needed support and then I did the same for them. I still lean on those networks and relationships.” – Hilary Provinse
Why is it important that we have more women in leadership roles?
Provinse: Equality is important for our clients as they become more diverse too. Traditionally, our clients have been wealthy white men, but this has started to change, particularly in terms of gender diversity. Daughters are inheriting businesses and more women are assuming leadership roles. These new women leaders are looking for partners with broader perspectives, not just the same old, same old. To me, that’s why gender diversity is important. It’s not to say that we get a gold star for being women. It’s driven by the desire to build better companies.
And when we’re speaking about diversity, it’s not just gender diversity, but racial, ethnic, and cultural diversity. It’s just good for business. Statistically speaking, companies that have diverse boards of directors perform better on the S&P 500. I’m encouraged to see that the market, companies and the business economy are now recognizing that diversity is essential. It brings better ideas to the table. Allowing for different perspectives on challenges in the business gives us a broader breadth of solutions.
What can current leadership do to move the needle on diversity?
Provinse: I’m constantly thinking about what we can be doing better to get more diverse talent into this business. It is such an awesome industry and when I look around the room, particularly at finance events, I’m one of the few women or minorities. This must change.
Leadership at the top, which is still traditionally male, needs to understand that embracing differences makes organizations better and do the work of encouraging more voices at the table. Women and minorities must feel empowered to engage and contribute. The faster we get there, the better, because a diverse workforce is essential to the success of Berkadia in the years to come.
What is your call to action for other women in commercial real estate looking to be a force for change?
Provinse: To other women and minorities, I’d say keep pushing forward, we need you! Look inward and know that you have the talent and drive to succeed and focus on that. And look outward and build your networks. We are all in this together to achieve a common goal. We need to support each other, listen to each other, and build networks to help each other achieve success.