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Washington Post: New Real Estate CEO on First Day -- We Need More Women Execs

September 09, 2015

As published in the Washington Post.

On Tuesday when Toby Bozzuto became chief executive of the Bozzuto Group, a home building empire his father co-founded 27 years ago, he laid out a number of plans.

He wants to grow the company, which already manages 51,000 units and has annual revenue of more than $1 billion. He wants to continue expansion into other markets. And he wants Bozzuto to be a great place for nearly 2,000 employees to work.

Before mentioning any of that, Bozzuto said one of his top priorities will be to address a shortage in the number of women in senior positions.

“I would like to really get a better understanding of gender equality in the workplace, get a better understanding of why there are very few women in leadership positions in real estate in the U.S. And I want to understand that and see how we can do better,” Bozzuto said in an interview Tuesday.

Like almost every commercial real estate company, the Bozzuto Group was founded by men, led by Tom Bozzuto, Toby’s father. Tom, Toby and Richard L. Mostyn, chief operating officer, are the company’s owners.

There are women in key positions. Julie A. Smith is president of Bozzuto Management. Jamie S. Gorski is chief marketing officer. The company’s first development hire outside the Mid-Atlantic, in Boston, is a woman.

But — again, like nearly every competing firm — the heavy majority of senior positions in the company are occupied by men. This isn’t new for the industry. Since 1979, the trade group Commercial Real Estate Women (CREW) has been pushing for more opportunities for women by holding networking events, mentoring opportunities and furthering development of women in the industry.

By some measures, Washington has one of the lower gaps in pay between men and women. Last year, Washington was ranked among the top five big cities in the country for women employees. A new study in February ranked the region the best place for a woman to work in tech, in part because 37 percent of tech jobs were filled by women and they earned 93 percent of what men were paid.

 


Women have also made large gains in residential real estate nationally, where they now sometimes out-earn men, according to a survey of 1 million professionals released this summer by the National Association of Realtors.
 

Female realtors sometimes out-earn male counterparts. (Courtesy National Association of Realtors)

There are top women executives in Washington commercial real estate as well, among them Forest City Washington’s Deborah Ratner Salzberg, Victoria S. Davis of Urban Atlantic, Donna P. Shafer of Cityline Partners, Michele V. Hagans of Fort Lincoln Realty and Diane Hoskins of Gensler.

Leslie Ludwig has led a push to advance more women at the JBG Cos., the largest firm in the region, where she is a partner.

But anyone who has entered the C-suites of Washington’s top commercial real estates firm does not need an abacus to calculate the lack of women.

Bozzuto, 41, doesn’t plan a ton of changes to the way he operates the company. His father will remain chairman and a member of the investment committee. He thinks the company is “incredibly well-positioned for the next 27 years.”

“My father and I share the same goals for this company,” Bozzuto said. “We have created a corporate culture based on our core values of concern for the communities and people we touch, creativity and passion in our approach to the business, and the pursuit of perfection in all we do.”

But he also said that if Bozzuto Group is going to remain a competitive and rewarding place to work, the gender gap must be addressed.

“To me this is less about me and more about the future of our company,” he said.