As president and CEO of Blanca
Commercial Real Estate, Tere
Blanca knows what it means to take
chances. She left a high-powered
executive position at a global firm in
2009 to establish her own services
business in Miami. It was a surprising decision, given the timing: the
national economy had collapsed
and the South Florida real estate
market was in flux.
While some questioned her rationale, she applied unique methodology and leveraged deep community connections. It worked out:
the firm has become one of South Florida’s largest independent
CRE services organizations, encompassing not only brokerage, but
also marketing, research and finance functions.
Gender has never been an issue throughout Blanca’s career. “I
never thought of it as an obstacle or an advantage,” she says. “My
advice to women is to be the best professional and the best leader
possible, femininity aside. That will speak volumes.”
She highlights the importance of cultivating relationships, which
“must be a priority no matter your career trajectory. That means
taking advantage of professional networking opportunities, developing mentors and finding sponsors in your company and outside,
and making the time and effort to build networks. Take risks and do
not shortchange yourself. There are times when women don’t recognize in themselves the potential and talent others inherently see.”
SHERRY A. CUSHMAN
“The commercial real estate community has expanded in diversity,
but we’re still far away from hitting
the percentages of women that
should and need to be leading the
industry.” Those thoughts are
according to Sherry Cushman, who
serves as executive managing director and leader of the legal sector
advisory group at Cushman &
Wakefield in Washington, DC.
She notes that one of the biggest
issues impacting the advancement
of women in the industry is lack of exposure and guidance.
Another big issue is providing the support and commitment to
those who feel they must choose between professional success or
having a family. “Companies must support women having families and have an overall commitment to provide women with the
same opportunities as male counterparts if they choose to have a
family,” says Cushman.
On the professional front, she’s built Cushman & Wakefield’s
legal sector group, which has grown to more than 350 global
advisors and leaders in five years. While leading this sector initiative, she was ranked among the firm’s Top 100 Producing
Brokers worldwide in the past year. She was also nominated to
serve on the Advisory Board for the company’s Women’s
Integrated Network and co-leads the WIN Diversity Committee,
an initiative to promote women in commercial real estate and
expand diversity within the company.
38 REAL ESTATE FORUM JULY/AUGUST 2017
LAURIE A. GRASSO
In the past 12 months alone, Laurie
Grasso, partner at Hunton &
Williams LLP, has closed seven deals
worth in excess of $1.8 billion. From
advising Pebblebrook Hotel Trust in
its $217.5-million sale of the 618-
room Manhattan NYC hotel, to representing Cove Property Group in
the $330-million acquisition and
development of 441 Ninth Ave. in
Manhattan, she has been busy.
She helped to launch Hunton &
Williams’ New York practice in 2012,
joining Carl Schwartz, who now serves as practice co-lead, as the
firm’s inaugural real estate lawyers in the city. Five years later,
Hunton & Williams now has one of the city’s premier CRE practices, with a close-knit team of attorneys hand-picked by Grasso
that handles some of the biggest deals in Manhattan and beyond.
While her deal work is impressive, she plans the firm’s annual
New York real estate gala, which regularly draws more than 300
clients. She also serves as a mentor for younger lawyers, both one-on-one and by coordinating weekly training sessions.
Apart from the firm, Grasso is a co-founder of Real Women of
Real Estate, an organization that serves as a network to create
opportunities for female professionals. Additionally, she’s an
active supporter of the Windward School for children with learning differences and Rebuilding Together, an organization that
improves the residences of low-income homeowners.
Over the course of her 30-year
career, Melanie Meyers has worn
various hats: as an architect, as general counsel to the New York City
Department of City Planning and as
a private attorney representing
developers and institutions. Her
unique background has enabled
her to assume a primary role in
obtaining land use entitlements for
some of the most transformative
developments in the city, such as
Greenpoint Landing on the
Brooklyn Waterfront, the 16-acre Pacific Park in Downtown
Brooklyn, the Western Rail Yards in the Hudson Yards Area and
the Applied Science Campus for Technion Institute of
Technology and Cornell University on Roosevelt Island.
Meyers joined Fried Frank’s real estate department in 2003 as
a partner. She serves as pro bono counsel for the Robin Hood
Foundation on a variety of matters, and is also a member of WX
New York Women Executives in Real Estate, on the board of
Governors for the Real Estate Board of New York and on the
advisory board of Real Estate Law Reporter.
She encourages those looking to enter the CRE business to
jump at opportunities and take chances to find out their strengths.
“There are very few successful people that have a straight-line
trajectory as a career path, and the detours along the way add
experiences and knowledge and help establish relationships that
will inform and enrich the latter parts of your career.”