Influencing an industry: Women leading by example in GTA real estate

Influencing an industry: Women leading by example in GTA real estate

Synopsis
3 Minute Read

Speaking with women within two successful real estate development companies in the GTA about what sets them apart. Bringing empathy, compassion, and philanthropy to the space has paved the way for Spotlight Developments and Greenwin to give back to the communities they serve, change the industry, and inspire women in the workforce.

By empowering women in a male-dominated industry, some real estate developers are changing the industry, and encouraging others to join

In an industry where most of the big players and decision makers are men, dozens of dedicated women are making their mark in real estate development across the GTA.

With their own diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) practices serving as an anchor to all their organizations do, Greenwin and Spotlight Development are conducting business in a new way and expanding on the success that’s brought them to inspire others.

Greenwin

At family-owned and operated development and property management company Greenwin, the culture inside of the organization is as important as the impact they strive to have in the community.

As one of Ontario’s largest privately-owned property management and development firms, diversity across the board, has helped grow their influence and philanthropic goals.

“Greenwin has always done so much more than basic property management and development,” says Sally Matteo, communications manager at Greenwin. “We go beyond the standard and push the envelope by really learning about our residents and engaging in meaningful ways. This allows us to build communities that stand the test of time.”

The company was founded in 1948 and their team prides itself on evolving alongside society to best represent the communities they serve giving back to those communities as much as possible.

Whether it’s donating laptops to students learning online during the pandemic, creating full-spectrum social programming for youth in their buildings, or hosting events showcasing local artists in the GTA, the care and concern for community prosperity is second nature, says Matteo.

As part of an all-female team at Greenwin, Matteo and community engagement manager Ossana Ber agree everyone has a role to play in pushing the needle forward on DEI in the workplace.

“If we’re not speaking up and having conversations with our residents and other stakeholders, we can’t expect anything to change,” Ber says. “Through our Greenwin Cares arm, we partner with renters, Toronto Police, all three levels of government, security companies, and local businesses, to create a community management collective. This way, you have voices, representation, and input from almost every angle.”

Matteo says bringing women to the table to be part of these discussions will only benefit the industry.

“Women naturally just bring a certain level of nurturing and empathy… We’re talking about people’s homes, their communities and their livelihoods so it’s critical that we understand their needs and create a space where they can really flourish,” she says.

As a fourth-generation family member for Greenwin, communications director Jessica Green has observes this commitment first-hand since her grandfather was running the company.

“We always say that happy buildings make happy communities,” Green says. “We operate at a high level from an operations perspective, but the real magic happens when you add in the community engagement elements like we do through Greenwin Cares. Your residents feel it, your teams feel it, and local stakeholders like city officials, local businesses, the police, etc., feel it. When you manage a property, you have the responsibility to the community at-large and we take that job very seriously.”

Spotlight Development

Since 2010, Spotlight Development, with president Sherry Larjani at the helm, have been working on building communities instead of just buildings.

A vision to change and inspire the industry has been what’s led to their goal of social responsibility, says Jasmine Ashfield, communications director at Spotlight. Tackling housing affordability in the GTA is an issue particularly close to their hearts.

“We’re really trying to push the boundaries of what’s possible in real estate,” Ashfield says. “People think of real estate as just leaving a sign in the lawn and selling a piece of property but what it really is about is creating the community around you, creating communities people want it live in, that people are going to succeed in.” 

Spotlight’s DEI and environmental, social and governance (ESG) practices, are at the core of everything they do and as one of very few female-founded developers in Ontario, it’s been what’s set them apart.

“Women have been historically left out of an industry we know firsthand,” Ashfield says. “We have a lot of thoughts about how our communities should be built, how they could be built better, and how the communities could prosper better. And when you come from that standpoint, you go ok so I have this viewpoint, who else is in the room that isn’t being asked to speak?”

It’s this compassion and desire for collaboration that’s adding value to Spotlight’s work and the entire industry, Ashfield says, but it’s also contributing to a workplace that encourages empathy and support.

“It’s so important that women across cultural boundaries and orientational boundaries see each other and empower each other… Giving women not only a chance to be listened to, respected, honoured, and taken seriously is going to advance our country and developments in government, in technology, and every sector imaginable.”

Growing your own DEI program

By introducing or improving your own DEI practices and programs, opportunities abound for growth, opportunity, and change.

We encourage clients across all industries to learn the value that can be added to a business by focussing on developing or advancing their DEI strategies, what it looks like in practice, and how it can improve operations as a whole.

Mary Larson, MNP Partner and Leader, Consulting and Organization Renewal, says there’s a big difference between supporting DEI as a whole and actually enacting DEI policies.

“To actually drive action, you need to define strategic initiatives, develop metrics and assign accountabilities,” Larson says.

“One of the things we do a really good job of is understanding and working with our clients in a very sensitive way to understand what the current realities (within the organization) are.”

From hiring practices, to onboarding and professional development programs, there are a myriad of opportunities for businesses of all sizes and across all industries to make changes where needed.

Enabling employees to self-identify is increasingly becoming mandatory in some government organizations and can provide the demographic insight needed to develop a strategic framework for which to move forward.

MNP uses a tool called the Barrett Values Assessment to survey all members within an organization to see what values each individual brings into work everyday and how they’re seeing those values reflected in their workplace.

If you think your organization could benefit from learning more about expanding on DEI practices, contact an MNP consultant to learn more.

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