Originally published in the March issue of Think Realty, DLP Lending CEO & Founder Don Wenner speaks to the diversity of the DLP Real Estate Capital team and how to stack the deck in your favor.

DLP’s Company Culture Creates Laser Focus on Productivity & Returns

In real estate, women make up 64 percent of realtors. This would make you think gender parity isn’t an issue. Yet a look at executive-level positions tells a different story.

For instance, 25 percent of the Urban Land Institute’s members are women, but they make up only 14 percent of CEOs. In commercial real estate, women only hold nine percent of C-suite positions. While we’ve made great progress in recent years, there’s still much more work to do.

Given the focus of this issue, we’d like to take a look at how companies can bring more women into powerful seats and why this matters so much. After all, we all stand to gain when every deserving talent has a seat at the table.

For this piece, we’ll highlight what companies can specifically do, using our firm and others as examples. We’ll also bring in unique perspectives from our team members at DLP Real Estate Capital.

Culture Matters Most

At DLP Real Estate Capital, we believe culture drives everything. That’s why we stress having disciplined thought, disciplined people, and disciplined action. If you can perform, you’ll get an opportunity.

“DLP focuses on getting the right people into the right role. It’s about who’s the best fit based on a combination of qualifications, education, past experience, work-ethic and last but certainly not least, a fit with our culture and a desire to live that culture every single day. ,” says Claudia Schiepers, Chief Administrative Officer at DLP Real Estate Capital.

Schiepers joined DLP’s executive leadership team in 2020 and leads operations across DLP’s family of companies. She has 15+ years of experience in real estate and financial services, previously serving as Chief Marketing Officer and Operations Project Lead for Greystone. It was her incredible experience and expertise in execution that made her a great fit for the role.

“Don Wenner has a vision for the company and he wants A-players that can help us realize the vision. Our culture is meant to help us build a great future, and our hirings align with that vision,” adds Schiepers.

The strong culture we’ve built at DLP has enabled us to bring on great team members in addition to Claudia, like Melanie French, President of Real Estate Management at DLP Real Estate Capital, and Amanda Dean, President of Alliance Property Transfer, a DLP company.

“With good people and a good culture, you’ll attract diverse talents,” states Dean, a real estate and title insurance attorney with more than a decade worth of experience. She previously worked as in-house counsel at a Fortune 300 Company. She has extensive experience helping direct title companies refine closing procedures and assimilate to the new CFPB climate and TRID mandates.

“At DLP, you see fairness because the focus is on the work. We reward good work and build up team members. We recognize silent leaders — those that lead through actions,” adds Dean.

Melanie French, President of Real Estate Management at DLP Real Estate Capital, has held executive-level positions in multi-family over the last 15 years. She joined our organization because of the enthusiasm and zest for operating differently from other real estate companies.

“There is a heightened focus, and we ensure that you have like-minded individuals working toward a common goal,” describes French.

At DLP, we believe this commitment to culture is why we’ve been able to bring such highly talented women to our leadership team. Our female leaders are a major reason why:

  • We’ve been on the Inc. 5000 list of fastest-growing companies for seven years in a row.
  • Wall Street Journal named us a top 15 team in real estate (#1 in PA and NJ).
  • We now have more than $1.2 billion in assets under management.

Broadening Perspectives in the Real Estate Industry

I’ve spent time researching the Florida real estate boom and bust in the 1920s. The images and articles show one thing is clear: the developments were dominated by men.

Flash forward to today, and you see great progress. You can read lots of stories about women in powerful seats like:

  • Veronica Figueroa: She’s one of only 20 U.S. agents on Zillow’s advisory board.
  • Barbara Corcoran: She started her real estate business with a $1,000 loan and built it into a $5 billion business. You’ve probably seen her on Shark Tank!
  • Dorothy Herman: She’s one of the richest self-made women in real estate.

At DLP Real Estate Capital, our female leaders drive performance across a diverse set of key roles. Team members like Schiepers, French, and Dean directly determine the success of the company.

“As a woman working in the multifamily real estate and construction industry, I am proud of my accomplishments,” exclaims Melanie French. In the past five years, French has helped complete more than 40,000 interior renovations and grow a management company from 9,000 to 50,000 units.

“We all want to work hard and be successful, but at the end of the day, it’s about people. Highlighting the individual accomplishments of women in this space is vital,” continues French.

The movement of women into powerful seats in real estate shows that the glass ceiling has been broken. Though the industry is historically dominated by men, women have been making waves in real estate investing. And it’s making the space much more prosperous.

Over time, the success of women should do a lot to break down lingering biases and help even more women get a fair opportunity at the table. To help get us there, we must first broaden our perspectives.

“We can’t box ourselves in. It doesn’t matter who you are. If you have passion and work ethic, and are given the opportunity, you can succeed in real estate,” says Amanda Dean.

Such insights can be put into tangible action. We must ensure those with potential get the opportunity. For this to happen, we must work to prevent hidden and unconscious biases from affecting how we hire and promote.

“We all have biases. The key is to recognize, understand, and take steps to overcome these biases,” says Schiepers. “Organizations can take action in many ways. They could rework job descriptions to be more gender-neutral, implement blind interview processes, ensure fair pay and salary negotiations, and more. This would help level the playing field.”

Such actions can help continue the momentum of women ascending into powerful seats in real estate. And ultimately, this would help build a healthier industry.

The Power of Mentorship & Representation

I find this statistic noteworthy:

89% of women set more ambitious life goals when in the presence of a woman they admire.

“Support and mentorship from women in leadership positions will ensure the success of more women in real estate,” attests Amanda Dean.

“I advise women in real estate to stay true to who they are. Don’t be afraid to be a woman. Stay fearless. Have passion for what you do. The results will come,” adds Dean.

While we understand the value of mentorship in real estate, our industry and most workplaces in general have to close the gap. Research shows that, while 67 percent of women place great importance on having a mentor, 63 percent of female workers have never had a mentor.

To get more women into leadership positions in real estate, we must develop and/or encourage more mentorship programs for women. Such efforts can have a huge impact, and would benefit real estate as a whole.

For example, leaders can encourage and facilitate connections outside the workplace. There are lots of great organizations, such as the Women’s Real Estate Investors Network, that connect professionals. Industry events can be better utilized to build such connections as well. Within the organization, real estate companies should encourage and promote mentor-mentee relationships. This can be done in a number of ways, from one-on-one training sessions to career development roundtables.

“Representation is very important,” attests Claudia Schiepers. “When you see people that look like you doing the things you want to do someday, it motivates you. When those same people work with you as a mentor, it can guide you to a more successful career. This is why I believe all leaders should use their positions and privilege to uplift others through mentorship.”

The Road Ahead in Real Estate

Today, let’s celebrate the successes of women at DLP Real Estate Capital and other companies. They’re a true motivation for the next generation of real estate entrepreneurs.
It’s on us to continue the momentum we’ve seen in recent years. That means having the right culture and processes, broadening our perspectives and overcoming biases, and uplifting others through things like mentorship programs.

In the end, we’ll all benefit. Because with more talented women making waves in the real estate investing world, we can build a more prosperous future.

Don Wenner is Founder and CEO of DLP Real Estate Capital.

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