Diversity at Work

How these pros blazed a trail of success—and what they’re doing to help others along the way.

Patricia Loveall, SIOR

Have Confidence, But Check the Ego

Patricia Loveall, SIOR
Executive vice president, CBRE, Seattle, Wash.

At a recent meeting of the Society of Office and Industrial REALTORS®, Patricia Loveall watched the introduction of 200 new members and member associates. Among them were many women and people of color. “I looked at that group and saw the future of our industry,” Loveall says. “It was exciting to see that the steps we’re taking to increase the diversity of the real estate sector are producing results.”

Loveall has 40 years of industrial sales and leasing experience, including 1,000-plus acres of land and more than 17 million square feet of industrial and office space. Although she has witnessed commercial real estate become more welcoming to women, she actively works to introduce young women to the industry and be a mentor. “If you don’t get exposed to this business, it won’t be on your career radar screen,” she says. “It’s incumbent on us to show young professionals what a commercial real estate career could look like.”

Loveall’s own career path benefitted from a mentor—Jerry Mathews, co-founder of Kidder Mathews, where Loveall would enjoy a long and productive career. Mathews observed her work as an asset manager for a Seattle developer and suggested brokerage was her calling. Loveall was a partner and executive vice president of Kidder Mathews until February 2023, when she joined CBRE as executive vice president.

Early on, Loveall found advantages to being female in a male-dominated career. “You stand out,” she says. “There were instances where male colleagues wanted me to act subservient, but I didn’t care. I was there to serve my clients and to prove myself.”

In Loveall’s view, women bring unique skills to a transaction. “Broadly speaking, women are good listeners and sensitive to situational nuances that can benefit the client.” She also believes women easily check their egos. “Our egos give us the confidence and swagger to do the job, but it’s essential to recognize when it’s more important to be part of the team,” says Loveall.

Among the advice she offers to other women in the commercial sector is to be confident, do the hard work, don’t be afraid to say you don’t know something (but then find out), and never hesitate to bring in another broker if they add value. “I learned early not to focus on the commission,” says Loveall. “If you serve the client, you’ll get paid.”

Loveall is a former Seattle Commercial Real Estate Women Network board member and former president of the Washington State Commercial Association of REALTORS®. She currently serves as global president of SIOR and was recently honored with the Michael P. Hickey Award by the Industrial Asset Management Council for her work as a mentor, among other accomplishments.

Loveall remains an active mentor. “The more we can guide women into success, the better our industry will be,” says Loveall

Cynthia Shelton, CCIM, CRE

Specialize, and Do It Well

Cynthia Shelton, CCIM, CRE
Senior managing director of the investments and capital markets division,
LandQwest Commercial, Orlando, Fla.

During her transition year from residential into commercial real estate in Washington state, Cynthia Shelton earned $0 from commercial transactions. She considered staying in residential sales but was frustrated by weekend hours and emotional home buyers. “I knew commercial real estate was a better fit, but residential referrals kept coming and paying the bills,” says Shelton. “I wanted to get my CCIM designation but knew I would have difficulty meeting the required dollar volume in my small market.” When her husband’s work prompted a return to Florida, where the couple had moved from, the referrals ended; Shelton dove into the commercial sector in Tampa Bay and never looked back.

Today, Shelton is the senior managing director of the investments and capital markets division for LandQwest Commercial Real Estate Services in Orlando, Fla., where she focuses on the disposition of retail investment properties. Previously, Shelton served as director of investment sales for Colliers International and vice president of acquisitions for an NYSE-traded real estate investment trust, acquiring more than $300 million in single- tenant assets.

Early on, Shelton was often the only female in her position. In Florida, she interviewed for a sales team position at a large multinational firm—first with several men and then with the sales team leader, a woman. “She told me the men all thought I’d make a great administrative assistant and, if I took the job, I’d always be an admin person in their eyes,” says Shelton, who decided to accept a brokerage position at another firm. “Over the years, I’ve walked away from deals when people didn’t see me in the role. I tell them I’d like to assist them but not if they don’t think I know the business.”

Shelton has helped other women succeed in the commercial sector. In 1995, she began hosting a “Women in Retail” event held during International Council of Shopping Centers conferences. “It was a great opportunity for women in the retail sector to network, and I maintain some of those contacts to this day,” she says.

In 2002, Shelton served as CCIM president. She was only the second woman elected to the role. “You had to prove you could juggle a family, career and volunteerism,” says Shelton, who recalls overhearing a woman remark that rather than running for president, she should be home with her young daughter and husband. Fortunately, attitudes have changed. “Our industry is much more diverse, which brings different perspectives to the table and benefits our clients and our industry,” she says.

“Today, young men come to me for counsel and advice,” Shelton says. “That wouldn’t have happened when I joined the industry.” Shelton is happy to help anyone but says she most enjoys guiding young professionals in whom she sees herself. Shelton advises anyone interested in commercial real estate to learn the sector inside and out and to specialize. “You’re not doing your client any favors by trying to do it all,” she advises. “Say what you think without being negative and treat people fairly. It will come back to help you and your client.”

If the words “commercial real estate professional” make you think of a silver-haired man, you’re right in line with NAR research conducted in 2018. It showed that 70% of commercial members were men and the median age was 60. (The research didn’t touch on racial or ethnic characteristics.) But, more and more, that mold is changing. Here, three pioneering professionals talk about how mentoring furthered their career trajectory. Each is committed to paying it forward—mentoring young women and people of color—and being intentional about diversifying the commercial real estate industry. We’re also pleased to introduce you to young professionals who are further changing the norm as they blaze their own career paths and show the way for others.

T. Dallas Smith

Be Intentional About Relationships

T. Dallas Smith Founder and CEO
T. Dallas Smith & Co., Atlanta

At age 19, T. Dallas Smith set his sights on a career in real estate. He knew nothing about it, except that it was a top category among Forbes’ 1982 ranking of the 400 richest Americans. “I wanted to make money,” says Smith, who pursued a job in the commercial market with hard work and an unbreakable belief in himself.

A call to a local commissioner led to one contact that led to another, and soon he was asked to provide a resume to Thomas W. Tift Jr., a renowned Georgia developer. Aware that his first name (Tonialo) and other details would identify him as Black, Smith made some changes. “I ‘whitewashed’ my resume,” he says, removing basketball from his hobbies but leaving golf. He even changed his name, adopting “Dallas” from the popular TV show. The strategy worked, leading to a face-to-face interview.

“When I gave the receptionist my name, she nearly fell out of her chair,” recounts Smith. He later learned that when she told Tift that Smith was here for the interview and that he was Black, Tift responded it would be “the shortest interview in history.” That turned out not to be the case.

Tift hired Smith in 1982 as a leasing and management representative for Atlanta Air Center Realty. In 1989, Smith became the first African American broker at Cushman & Wakefield of Georgia, helping open doors for many Black brokers. He pioneered the brokerage division for H.J. Russell & Co. and, in 2007, opened T. Dallas Smith & Co., specializing in tenant representation in office, industrial and land. His team has completed transactions with an aggregate value of over $16 billion.

Initially, Smith didn’t want to mentor others. “People would ask me, and I’d say, ‘Go get your license and then come back,’ but they never did—until Leonte Benton, who returned three weeks later with a license,” says Smith. It was 2007, and Benton was a sophomore at Morehouse College. “I had him doing ridiculous things—hoping he’d quit. One day I asked him to store some bottled water. I watched him willingly do it in his suit and tie, which was my epiphany. He was me in 1982.” Smith realized his life’s purpose was to help other people of color enter the business. Benton is now president of T. Dallas Smith & Co.

Smith’s impact is exponential. “Whatever number I’ve mentored is multiplied because it exposes their children and their friends’ children to real estate as a career. I’m not finished yet,” says Smith, noting less than 5% of commercial brokers are Black. “We’ve got a whole lot more work to do.”

He advises those new in the business to be intentional about relationships. “Engage in local commercial boards to rub shoulders with those you want to be like,” says Smith. “You might find a mentor or someone who will bring you into their business.”

Intentionality is also critical for increasing diversity. “People with power need to be intentional about bringing people of color into the business,” says Smith. “Until you adopt that mindset, we’re just kicking the can down the road.”

“Whatever number I’ve mentored is multiplied because it exposes their children and their friends’ children to real estate as a career.”
—T. Dallas Smith


The Next Generation of Industry Leaders

Akil Hameed headshot

Akil Hameed, AHWD

Broker-owner, Fass Real Estate Services

From his Twinsburg, Ohio, basement to a full-service office featuring commercial, residential, management and consulting services, Akil Hameed has grown Fass Real Estate Services into a multimillion-dollar real estate development, brokerage, and consulting firm in northeast Ohio. Hameed is also vice chair of Project REAP—the Real Estate Associate Program—dedicated to advancing diversity, equity and inclusion in the commercial sector through education, mentorship and partnerships. He serves as the 2023 president of the Akron Cleveland Association of REALTORS®. Hameed attributes his success in commercial real estate to his mentor, David Browning of CBRE. “[David] was very intentional about forging a relationship to create the advancement of my firm as a minority company,” Hameed says.

Courtney Johnson Rose, CCIM

Courtney Johnson Rose, CCIM

CEO, George E. Johnson Development Inc.

Courtney Johnson Rose’s name has been a fixture on lists of top professionals under 20, 30 and 40, including REALTOR® Magazine’s 30 Under 30 class of 2007. After joining the family business in 2002 as a developer, Rose took the helm in 2019, procuring contracts with major Texas institutions. Today, she’s president-elect of the National Association of Real Estate Brokers. She holds a master’s degree in community development and a doctorate in organizational leadership. “Mentorship is a key tool to help gain more diversity in commercial real estate.” Rose says. “I am very fortunate to have my father, George Johnson, who has been in real estate for over 40 years, as my mentor to assist in my growth and success.”

Rita Tené Ellison

Rita Tené Ellison

Associate director, T. Dallas Smith & Co.

Rita Tené Ellison began her commercial real estate career as an intern at T. Dallas Smith & Co. during her junior year at Georgia State University, majoring in real estate. She returned 12 years later after acquiring extensive experience with, among others, CoStar, Situs and JLL, where she oversaw a portfolio totaling 1 million square feet with various asset classes. She was recognized in 2022 as New Member of the Year by CREW Atlanta. Ellison, who also sits on the Rialto Center for the Arts board at GSU, excels in developing proactive solutions to complex customer challenges. In addition to crediting Dallas Smith, she says, “I am fortunate to work closely with mentors like Audra Cunningham, who, as a Black woman, is breaking barriers every day— exposing the next generation of diverse women to this business.” Cunningham is executive vice president and chief administrative officer for T. Dallas Smith & Co.

Regina Wang, CCIM

Regina Wang, CCIM

Vice president, CBRE Capital Markets, Debt & Structured Finance

Regina Wang’s extensive knowledge and experience in financial analysis, business strategy, commercial real estate development and private equity serve her well. She worked for real estate firms and a venture capital–backed AI technology company before joining CBRE in 2019. Since then, she has underwritten/originated over $1 billion of debt and co-led efforts to raise over $300 million of equity for commercial real estate projects. Wang views mentorship as critical to her career achievement. “Mentorship often comes via inspiration from people who are inclusive, open resources for you, and let you observe firsthand how they handle challenges and solve problems,” Wang says.

Ashleigh Kiggans

Ashleigh Kiggans

Vice president, MacRo Commercial Real Estate
Frederick, Md.

In 2022, the Frederick County, Md., Office of Economic Development named Ashleigh Kiggans in its Top 50 Under 40 list, spotlighting young leaders across many industries. Kiggans joined MacRo in 2015 as one of the youngest female associates in the area and, in 2018, was promoted to vice president. Valued for the healthy competitiveness she brings to the market, Kiggans is equally dedicated to bringing more strong women into the industry and recently hired her first mentee. Ashleigh credits MacRo’s owner, Rocky Mackintosh, for helping her embrace that she was different from most others in the industry: “I may be one of the first of my background in the Frederick commercial real estate market, but my goal is to make sure I’m not the last!”

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