L.A. real estate isn't quite a club for men only but it's close. The Business Journal asked several prominent men in the real estate community who they pick as the leading women in their industry, and why there is such a dearth of women in the upper echelons. Our panelists are: Ed P. Roski Jr., president of Majestic Realty Co. in the City of Industry; Jerry Snyder, principal of J.H. Snyder Co. in Los Angeles; Richard Ziman, chairman and CEO of Arden Realty Inc. in Beverly Hills; Jim Travers, president of Travers Realty Corp. in Los Angeles; and Robert Maguire, president of Maguire Partners in Los Angeles.

Ann Donahue

Question: Who is the most prominent woman in L.A. real estate?

Roski: Darla Longo with CB Richard Ellis does industrial real estate and she has been in the business for a number of years. She's near or at the top of the business, and I believe she handles the industrial real estate holdings for Coldwell Banker. She does a great job. There are also quite a few women in commercial real estate that I don't know personally.

Snyder: I've met some gals that have represented tenants, but I don't remember their names. But actually I'm not the one in the company that usually has those kinds of contacts. How about that for a cop out?

Ziman: But of course, Diana Laing, executive vice president and CFO of Arden Realty. She's a consummate professional and it's an irrelevant fact that she's a woman. When we were looking for a CFO before we went public, the minute we met her we knew she was the one for the job. She had the professional experience, the maturity and the ability to handle being the CFO of a New York Stock Exchange company. She has a great personality, just a great gal a great person, actually.

Travers: Among commercial real estate brokers, I'd say it would be Lynn Williams, Cushman Realty Corp. I think that people trust her and that she communicates very well. She's originally a lawyer by trade and I think that's a good qualification. She has a very nice clientele list.

Maguire: Lynn Williams at Cushman, she's great. Also Kathy Briscoe at Lowe Enterprises. They're very good to do business with and very smart. We've had very positive experiences when we work with them.

Q: Who is the most prominent woman at your firm?

Roski: Val Achtemeier. She's the executive vice president of finance and development. She has been with us for three years but we worked with her on various projects for years before that. Val has a great knowledge of the business, but it goes beyond that. She also a natural feeling for the business she works smart.

Snyder: Oh boy, all the other women in my office are going to hate her if I say this, but it's my assistant, Barbara Craft. She's been with me for 30 years and she does a great job of taking care of me and my finances.

Travers: For us, it's Linda Eng. She's a broker who does very well. I think she's very intelligent and understands how to get along with people.

Maguire: We have Peggy Moretti, who is one of our senior people doing marketing and public relations. One of our senior project managers is Betty Grove, who is in charge of the Wells Fargo Center. WFC is a major project, about 2.5 million square feet, so she has a huge responsibility.

Q: Why aren't there more women in commercial real estate?

Roski: I know that in the industrial segment, there are very few, and I don't know why. Maybe because it has the word "industrial" in it? I don't know. Women haven't been attracted to it, but those who have gone into it have done very, very well.

Snyder: The way I see it, within most divisions there's a senior man and a secondary woman, and the women are hungry to move up. I think we'll see a lot more women in commercial real estate in the future. I think it's a great job for a woman because of the hours. In residential real estate, you're showing houses on Saturday and Sunday, which is really hard if you're raising a family at the same time. In commercial, it's pretty much a Monday through Friday job. I've never seen any leasing meetings on Saturdays.

Ziman: I'm not saying that it's good, but historically that's the way it's been. If you look at MBA programs and real estate development organizations, you see that it's traditionally been a men's environment. Whereas in fields like law or investment banking, you can see that a lot of that started changing years ago and there are a lot of women in those professions now. The real estate industry is evolving the same way. If you look at our company, there are a lot of women. Eighty percent of our regional managers are women. In our senior leasing department we have two or three women.

Travers: I don't know why. I do think that women have played a very important part as far as the broker's side of the equation and on the landlord side in commercial real estate. I can't answer why they haven't played a bigger part than that. But it seems to be that way mostly men in real estate in most of the cities I've gone to.

Maguire: I have no idea. I think there are some terrific women out there and there are some extraordinary opportunities to be had, certainly in our organization, at least. I don't think there's an old boy's club and I don't think there's any limitations to what women can do in the business.

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