Gisele Danis and Susan Veres are managing partners with honeycomb solutions, a consulting company, in Calgary. They are also behind the Women in Development networking group. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
What is Women in Development and what does it do?
Danis and Veres: Women in Development (WIND) is a networking group of female professionals involved in the creative services (marketing, communications, public and media relations) of Calgary’s development and real estate sector. WIND also means ‘wind at your back.’
The group (about 30 women) meet quarterly to support each other in today’s challenging and very competitive economy. Every quarter we pick a different community in the city to showcase. We discuss industry and consumer trends, best practices and key learnings and there’s often a guest speaker. (A female leader in our industry or other industries).
The real estate industry is facing one of its hardest years ever in Calgary. These young women are looking for a safe place to share their challenges and daily pressures to meet results but also their goals and dreams.
We also spend time dealing with pressures women face specifically in our sector; which is lack of female leadership role models, lack of advancement opportunities, lack of coaching and training, lack of gender pay equity, diversity issues, maternity leaves, confidence factors, work-life balance – even setting the room temperature.
Who’s behind this movement?
Danis and Veres: The idea is the brainchild of honeycomb solutions – our new venture. The two of us are former c-suite executives, who have spent years in the development industry and just recently formed our own consulting business.
Both of us have been blessed to work in the industry at senior levels and to contribute to community dialogue and community building initiatives across the city. It’s important to share what we have learned to support younger women who are interested in getting into the business or who are stuck and can’t find a way to their personal goals or to the executive table.
Why did you feel it was important to start such a group?
Danis and Veres: We feel there are five reasons why WIND, a women-only network group focused on real-estate and development marketing and communications, is important: We get each other, it gets results, it’s a great way to find a mentor, it builds confidence and we’re continually inspired.
We knew that there are other networking groups and professional associations out there for women, but we heard directly from young people that there was a gap – no one offered a group that focused directly on the real estate sector, specifically focused on marketing, communications/creative services, place branding, and community and stakeholder engagement.
We also heard many formats were quite formal. Our philosophy is a fireside chat every time we meet (with a little wine and cheese, of course).
What challenges do female professionals face in the real estate world?
Danis and Veres: The real estate world (of land development) is still a male-led industry. While there are exceptions, there are very few female voices or high profile female leaders in this sector to act as advocates, inspiration, mentors to young women in this category.
Also in this industry, marketing in some organizations is still viewed as a support service versus a strategic driver. And many women who graduate from university or college in the creative services areas (marketing/advertising/communications, etc.) regrettably don’t receive strong financial and business acumen training in their studies.
Our quarterly gatherings allow folks to grow their financial acumen and strategic know-how, either through the guest speakers we bring in or the real-life challenges/questions the members bring for discussion.
We all know that today marketing must drive a return on investment – what we do is not fluff, nor should be seen as a cost burden. These people are the individuals who have the pulse of the customer and are trying to win their hearts and minds of them every day.
What can women bring to the table for the real estate market in this city?
Danis and Veres: In short, a lot.
Notwithstanding the talented female architects, engineers and planners in the industry, the marketers and communicators we meet quarterly truly love the industry – and that’s great because other industries could snatch this pool of talent up in a minute.
They are brilliant, passionate and curious with great drive to learn and be the best at their trade. They are digitally savvy and innovative. They want to make a difference and what both of us respect the most – and why we look forward to every quarter with these brilliant young minds – is that they all want to make Calgary and Alberta a better place to live, work and play.
And we thank them for that – because so do we.
– Mario Toneguzzi for Calgary’s Business