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Female Forces Driving the Post-Pandemic Recovery, hosted by ULI and moderated by Eleanor Sharpe of the Philadelphia City Planning Commission, highlighted female leaders in real estate and the built environment and explored their work in piecing together Philadelphia’s story of recovery.
Panelists included Dominique Casimir, Enterprise V.P. of Real Estate; Thomas Jefferson University & Jefferson Health; Nancy Gephart, Partner, Shift Capital LLC; Kate McNamara, Senior V.P., Navy Yard, PIDC; and Traci Powell, V.P. of Residential Sales/ Associate Broker, Mosaic Brokerage Group. The women spoke about their experiences as women in real estate, leading teams through the COVID-19 pandemic, and path toward pandemic recovery.
While explaining their current projects in and around Philadelphia–from the Sharswood Choice Neighborhood redevelopment to the Navy Yard to overseeing real estate of a major anchor institution–each panelist detailed how the themes of resiliency, creativity, and mental health have showed up in their work since the onset of the pandemic. The urgency brought on by the pandemic caused certain projects to move along faster and systems to change rapidly, often requiring great creativity and flexibility among their organizations. Nancy Gephart noted that “the only option was to keep going” while trying to get creative with the public health measures in place.
In a testament to the resiliency that they witnessed during the pandemic, panelists each noted projects and partnerships that, before the pandemic, would not have seemed possible. For example, McNamara of PIDC shared that the pandemic brought to light how much more could be done to assist small businesses operating at the margins.
Notably, all panelists spoke to an increase in cooperation both among peer institutions within the real estate and development field, but also at the state and local government levels. Casimir called it “coopetition”, recalling the partnerships that emerged among anchor institutions during the pandemic. All panelists agreed that many partnerships were strengthened during the pandemic as people an institutions had to lean on each other and work together more than ever.
Sharpe asked how the women viewed leadership in times of crisis and what effective leadership looks like in today’s world. The panelists spoke to the importance of centering empathy and authenticity as leaders, as well as making space for conversations about mental health, such as a ‘Mindful Mondays’ initiative mentioned by Casimir.
The discussion highlighted the challenges faced by many that work in real estate and the built environment, and offered tangible stories and examples of how to both recover from the turmoil and also carry through important leadership and business lessons into the future.
ULI would like to thank its event sponsors, whose support made this program possible: Babb Properties, JKRP Architectures, and William Heritage Winery. Thank you to our impressive lineup of panelists for their insights in this discussion. Special thanks to Women’s Leadership Initiative Co-Chairs, Kim Avant-Babb and Ramune Bartuskaite for their work putting this event together.
Contributed by Isabel Harner. Isabel is recent graduate of the Weitzman School of Design, Master of City Planning program and a Project Manager at Stone Sherick Consulting Group. She is a recipient of the ULI and Brandywine 2021 Cira Award Scholarship.