mPower: What I Told My Daughter

SAN DIEGO–MBA Promoting Opportunities for Women to Extend their Reach–mPower–continued its programming this week with an event at the MBA Commercial Real Estate Finance/Multifamily Housing Convention & Expo.

Valerie Achtemeier, Executive Vice President with CBRE Capital Markets, Los Angeles, said her firm emphasizes advancing women into leadership positions. She noted that CBRE recently launched an executive development program for 16 high-performing women in senior and executive leadership positions. 

“Commercial real estate is a fabulous industry,” Achtemeier said. “We want women to thrive here, not just survive. I hope we all never tire of working hard to reach our goals of true equality for women from the C-suite on and down. We want to see more tangible progress.”

MBA Chief Operating Officer Marcia Davies noted the clear relationship between greater diversity and profit, “yet women remain under-represented in corporate pipelines.” She said that women make most house purchase decisions and single women are better at paying their mortgages than their single male counterparts. “So we need to think about opportunities to support women in our industry and think of women as a target in the real estate market.”

Davies said MBA established the mPower network to help women in real estate strengthen their networks, achieve professional growth and share information. “We have resources and information and you can network with your peers,” she said, noting mPower’s online platform for sharing information with a whole network or with a specific person.

“I really feel that it starts with us,” Davies said. “We need to be our own self-advocates and make our voices heard.”

Keynote speaker Nina Tassler became Chairman of CBS Entertainment in 2014. In 2015, she was the only female running a broadcast network on her own without a male co-head. “For more than a decade, she made CBS a more female-friendly place both on- and off-camer,a with half of her 12 top executives being women,” Achtemeier said, noting that under Tassler’s leadership CBS aired numerous shows with strong female characters, including Mike and Molly, The Good Wife and Elementary.

Tassler said she discovered her passion for theater in college at Boston University. “I wanted to be on Broadway, singing, acting and dancing,” she said. “But none of that happened. You can’t be afraid to edit your dreams. Don’t be afraid to make a shift.”

Tassler made a shift last year when she left CBS after 30 years in TV and film to tackle a new challenge: writing a book. “I had done everything I dreamed I was going to do at CBS,” she said. “I changed the entire daytime and prime time schedule, the summer strategy, even the late-night schedule. To put it mildly, it took a lot out of me both physically and emotionally. I realized I had to take a step back and look at those things that have value and meaning.”

When her daughter’s volleyball team lost a big game, Tassler recognized a teachable moment. “She played hard but her team had lost and she was inconsolable. I told her ‘you played well and your team could depend on you. Look to each other for support, advice and comfort.’ That’s what she needed to hear at that time. Soon after that I searched for a book that would provide more case studies about how to deal with similar situations. I found there was not a book like that out there, so I thought to myself, ‘I’m going to do this.'”

After Googling the phrase “how to prepare a book proposal,” Tassler asked several prominent women what advice they would give to their daughters. “I contacted [former Secretary of State] Madeline Albright, [former First Lady] Laura Bush, [Supreme Court Justice] Ruth Bader Ginsburg and others to explain what I was doing,” she said. “I was met with an extremely enthusiastic response from these women who felt it was important as mothers, sisters and mentors to contribute their advice. There was valuable information to be gleaned.”

Davies noted certain recurring themes in Tassler’s book, What I Told My Daughter: Lessons from Leaders on Raising the Next Generation of Empowered Women. “I see resilience, gender equity and how to model behavior,” she said. “For example, Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s essay talks about when she and her husband were at home and their kids always saw them both sharing the household duties. Her children witnessed two parents, both very successful in their careers, always sharing their parental responsibilities.”

Tassler said to go with your gut. “What you see on TV has been heavily researched and edited,” she said. “It’s been thoroughly scrutinized by the time you see it. But sometimes you would have to trust your instinct. You have to have the confidence to make a decision that might be at odds with certain key people. Sometimes you’ll find yourself having to take a position in conflict with the status quo.”

Change always involves risk, and sometimes women need to take that risk and roll the dice, Tassler said. “You can fail without feeling like a failure and feel embarrassed without feeling ashamed,” she said. “We hold ourselves to very unrealistic standards. Many times I’ve said ‘I don’t know the answer.’ I’d find myself preparing an annual budget, doing presentations for an advertising sales group or addressing Wall Street advisors. I had zero experience doing it, but I knew anxiety would not stop me from giving it a chance.”

And anyone can be a leader, even if she or he is not a CEO, Tassler said. “Leadership doesn’t only come with a title,” she said. “You don’t need a title in front of your name to be a leader.”