Although often considered a “women’s issue,” gender equity has widespread and proven benefits. Companies with diverse teams and women in upper management see higher returns, greater productivity, steadier leadership through times of upheaval, and more innovative growth strategies. Nearly two thirds of real estate professionals believe that achieving gender equality and overall diversity is business critical. Yet women comprise only 35% of the commercial real estate workforce in the United States.
Explore how gender equity advances commercial real estate and learn best practices for seeding successful gender equity initiatives.
CEO & Managing Member
Northwest Capital Partners
Mark is the Founder and CEO of Northwestern Capital Partners, LLC. NCP was founded in 2004 and Mark has since led transactions as an advisor and investor valued at collectively over $1.8 billion. Northwestern Capital Partners has advised or invested with some of the most respected investors in the US and globally, including private equity firms, venture capital enterprises, strategic investors, academic institutions, and private investors. The company maintains long term and durable relationships with its investors, focusing on financial advisory and strategic planning.
Mark attended the University of Southern California (USC – Economics 1983), Queens University (MBA 1999), and Northwestern University’s Kellogg Graduate School of Management (General Management 2006). Mark has also completed MIT’s Real Estate Analysis and Investment program. Mark is active as a past or present board member with several nonprofits, the Executive Board of the USC Lusk Institute of Real Estate, as an advisor to the President’s Office of the University of Southern California, as a founding board member of the North Carolina chapter of the Leukemia Lymphoma Society, as a mentor with both XLerate Health and the McDonough Graduate School of Business at Georgetown University, as a past member of the Georgetown University Parents Council, and a member of the Urban Land Institute. In 2005, the University of Southern California presented Mark with the Widney Award for Alumni Leadership.
Associate; Real Estate, Land Use & Environmental Practice
Shmel C. Graham is an Associate in the Real Estate, Land Use and Natural Resources practice group in the Los Angeles Office of Sheppard Mullin Richter and Hampton LLP where she focuses on public private partnerships and represents clients throughout California on a variety of land use issues. Prior to joining Sheppard Mullin, Ms. Graham served in the City of Los Angeles Mayor’s Office under both Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Mayor Eric Garcetti. Ms. Graham has been a featured speaker on driving innovation in local government, best practices for leveraging public-private partnerships as well as optimizing publicly-owned land to support civic and economic development initiatives.
In 2019, Ms. Graham received the Riordan Programs Excellence in Civic Engagement & Leadership Award and received the Summer Star Award Inclusive Action for the City of Los Angeles for her work in the Mayor’s Office. She serves as a board member for the Urban Land Institute District Council - Los Angeles and Chairs the Urban Marketplace Program. She also serves on the board of the REAP Program and is a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.
Principal, Director of Architecture
Avivah leads the architectural practice in HOK’s Los Angeles studio. A native of Los Angeles, Avivah has more than 25 years of experience leading complex projects with diverse stakeholders in higher education, healthcare, and civic work. From strategic planning through construction, Avivah has led all phases of projects and worked with city, state, and federal jurisdictions.
Avivah’s professional work for and of the community is complemented by her active role in community service organizations. She currently serves on the Board of Directors for the Los Angeles ACE Mentor Program and the Santa Monica Youth Orchestra.
Gayle Starr is a Managing Director at Prologis. Under Gayle’s leadership, Prologis is nationally recognized for its commitment to advancing women and minorities in commercial real estate. Prologis is the annual sponsor of the ULI WLI Achievement Award. Gayle has been responsible for initiating and negotiating the corporate lines of credit as well as overseeing all non-public debt internationally and domestically for Prologis and its co-investment funds. Ms. Starr has successfully designed and originated complex finance structures across eight funds globally and has orchestrated the corporate- and property-level financing for currencies in 14 countries, as well as being responsible for over 40 lender relationships. Her previous experience in development, asset management and acquisitions has facilitated an understanding of real estate operations.
Prior to joining Prologis, Ms. Starr was a vice president for a national development company with experience in major lease negotiations, development, partnership structuring, finance and dispositions. She holds a bachelor's degree from the University of California at San Diego and a J.D. from the University of California at Davis.
Melanie’s commitment to delivering innovative design in demanding settings is evident throughout her portfolio. As a Studio Director at RIOS, she is a valuable asset to a diverse set of projects from large scale workplace projects like Sunset Las Palmas to wellness-driven oncology experiences like the University of Southern California Ellison Institute. She has over 20 years of Architecture experience. Her background includes work on residential projects and work with prominent artists on site-specific installations including the late Sol LeWitt, James Turrell, Jeff Koons, Robert Irwin, and Charles Ray.
Melanie’s dedication to design exploration and discussion drives her passion about design and the pedestrian in the city. Since her first project in downtown L.A. a decade ago, she has become a voice in the grassroots transportation community and has been featured in the LA Times, KPCC, Curbed, and Streetsblog, promoting alternative forms of transportation and infrastructure. She currently is the AIA representative on the LAUSD Bond Oversight Committee. She recently served two terms as Director-at-Large for the Highland Park Neighborhood Council and is past Co-Chair of the AIA/LA Women in Architecture Committee.