Growth Through Mentorship

A Look Inside the Goldie Initiative

Real estate’s sales-based, lone-wolf business culture is one that can sometimes overlook the profit potential in doing things a different way. When young professionals come to this industry, often their “onboarding” is little more than receiving a few rules and pointing them to the marketplace to sink or swim. And when the professional happens to be a woman, the process is even more foreboding. Given these impersonal norms, many in the industry have begun actively seeking mentorship opportunities as a way to develop profitable skills.

When consulting giants McKinsey and Company set out in 2015 to study the impact of gender diversity on corporate profitability, they found that companies who held on to outmoded staffing and promotion norms were leaving money on the table. McKinsey looked at 350 large public companies in North America, Latin American, and the UK and found that the companies among the top 25% in gender diversity were 15% more likely to produce better returns than comparable companies – an unexpected outcome for many in a traditionally male-dominated industry.

In the commercial real estate industry, the gold in gender diversity may have no greater symbol than a woman with the stuff in her very name. In 2007, Goldie B. Wolfe Miller, commercial broker extraordinaire and first female Vice President of Arthur Rubloff & Company, leveraged her decades of industry success to found The Goldie B. Wolfe Miller Women Leaders In Real Estate Initiative, a program dedicated to mentoring women entering a traditionally male-dominated industry.

Wolfe Miller’s vision was to put more women in the corner office by creating a mentorship program to share with candidates what she learned about making it there. Leaving Rubloff in 1989, she started her own firm and grew it from a tenant representation specialty into a juggernaut with $3 billion in transactions, reported to be the largest woman-owned commercial real estate company in the country. Along the way, invaluable experiences piled up and she wanted to share.

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Mentoring 101

Check At The Office: Oftentimes great mentors are already at work.

Don’t Be Afraid To Ask: Do you know a promising candidate with growth potential? Offer to mentor them! Do you admire a seasoned pro who always seems to deliver? Ask to shadow them!

Look Online: Sites like, social networks like LinkedIn, and co-working spaces like WeWork are great places to look for existing mentorship groups or start one of your own.

Network With A Purpose: REALTOR® conferences at the local, state, and national level are hotbeds of motivated, successful practitioners. Set a goal to attend a conference this year and meet 3 seasoned pros who can teach you.

Mentors and Mentees

Karin Kraai, Senior Managing Director at Newmark Knight Frank would know about the benefits of such sharing. As a past President of the Goldie Initiative Board, she has served as mentor to program graduates, helping to guide them in their careers and navigate the industry.

“I have had the opportunity to have mentors throughout my career, both male and female. These leaders challenged me and weren’t afraid to give me constructive feedback, especially when I needed it the most.”

Stop The Second-Guessing

The personal touch of mentorship programs means the opportunity for honest assessments from someone more akin to a friend than a teacher or colleague. Kraai recalls when one bit of input had a major effect in her career.

“One of my mentors told me several years ago that he noticed a difference in my style, and that while I might wonder if I had ‘lost my edge’ that I had actually gained it. I realized that I had become more comfortable in just being myself and not trying to act or present in a certain way that I thought at the time was more acceptable or competitive.”

Kraai decided to embrace this advice and began to take strategic risks in her professional career and in choices of volunteerism. “[It] led to me starting my own company, becoming President of the Board for the Goldie Initiative and being asked to speak on several panels that have created some great opportunities and relationships.”

Not Taking No For An Answer

Sevara Davis, Senior Manager of Real Estate at Chicago Public Schools manages a portfolio of over 60 million square feet in the nation’s third-largest public school system. A graduate of the Goldie Initiative program, she credits the mentorship she received for insights leading to successes in that most critical of business arenas: negotiations.

“I negotiated and fought for this position for no less than five months. I kept pushing, kept interviewing, kept saying ‘Hey, I’m the person for this position. Here’s what I can do once I’m in the position. Here are the contacts that I have to push these buildings through and make sure everything is handled successfully.’”

The technique, persistence, and endurance on display, says Davis, come from the guidance she got from mentors under the program. “Not only in pushing for my job specifically - all of these things are acutely in line to what I know Goldie to be: a go-getter, determined, not taking no for an answer, and doing whatever it takes to get the desired outcome. I feel like I directly applied that.”

A Team Even If You’re Alone

Davis remembers that mentorship is in part a numbers game: the more personal input she got from more mentors, the better. “I’ve had countless direct and indirect mentors with the program. Mentors that I’ve had lunch with, dinner with, or had built personal relationships with. I say to them ‘Hey, this is what I’m thinking of doing in this [career position], what are your thoughts on that? What would you say would be a better fit?’ They’ve been instrumental in figuring out what the path through my career looks like. They say ‘this is what I think you should be doing, here’s how you get with that, and here’s how to progress toward it.’”

Giving Back

Karin Kraai echoes the Initiative’s founder’s idea by helping the mentored become the mentors. “I have mentored several scholars in the Goldie Initiative and throughout my career; I believe it’s imperative to do so to help upcoming leaders in the industry and to give back. I now also seek out mentors that are younger than me and earlier in their career; we can help each other with different perspectives, information, and ideas.”


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