CRE Midwest

IWIRE: More than an industrial focused organization

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(Left to Right): Christine Choi, John Hancock Real Estate ; Karli Mayher, Avison Young ; Lynn Reich, Colliers ; Jimena Sayavedra, Paine Wetzel ; Beverly Hayes, SVN ; Christina Wold, Avison Young ; Lisa Krick, Cawley Chicago ; Jennifer Wagner, Ridge Development ; Stephanie Park, CBRE ; Susan Bergdoll, Duke Realty ; Claire Liston, CBRE ; Darcie Fankhauser, Heitman Investments

In an interview with Chicago Industrial Properties, Founder & President of IWIRE, Christine Choi, and Susan Bergdoll, a member of IWIRE’s Advisory Council, shared why the organization is necessary and essential to the women of industrial real estate in Chicago.

2015 marks the fourth year anniversary for Industrial Women In Real Estate (IWIRE), a unique grass-roots organization of transactional professionals from a variety of firms, specialties, as well as levels of experience within the greater Chicago market.

In an interview with Chicago Industrial Properties, Founder & President of IWIRE, Christine Choi, and Susan Bergdoll, a member of IWIRE’s Advisory Council, shared why the organization is necessary and essential to the women of industrial real estate in Chicago.

“We wanted to create an organization that was focused particularly for industrial women who are involved in commercial real estate,” Choi said. “Yet primarily consisting of transactional industrial women, and we also wanted to create a network within a greater network of CREW.”

“Our singular focus is what distinguishes us from CREW,” Bergdoll said. “We are a group of transactional based women focused on industrial real estate. I don’t know if that’ll ever change with this group. It creates the bond between all of us who are involved with IWIRE.”

IWIRE’s mission is to foster collaboration and education through the development of a network of women in industrial real estate. Their mission is cultivated by the events they host each year.

“A couple of events we hosted in 2014 were really successful,” Bergdoll noted. “First Kelly Gray, an IWIRE Founding Board Member and Information Officer, put together a ‘Tech Tools and Tips’ event. It focused on utilizing the technology that is out there today to benefit our members. It was a great event and we held it twice because there were so many people.”

“We’ve also done some of the property tours,” Bergdoll continued. “Duke has hosted two property tours for buildings that are under construction to talk about different aspects of constructing industrial buildings, and we did those tours on site. So the ladies had a chance to visit an actual construction site, and spend time talking to our construction superintendents, and project managers, about different aspects of the project.”

Bergdoll noted that the organization has also done some standard events that involve networking or socializing.

“Those are more of a meet and greet event, where we meet for lunch, cocktails, or some type of thing like that.”

For Choi, seeing the organization flourish and thrive is simply amazing.

“It’s just really thrilling from my perspective to see so many women join the industry at this time since it’s a little atypical to have an influx,” she said. “I think IWIRE exists for that purpose. To further encourage women to join and develop an area where they could reach out to their peer group, and to mentors.”

“We’ve been really proud of the fact that we have been, to this point, able to host all of our events except for one,” Choi continued. “Every other member event has been completely free because we have been able to utilize the generous donations of the sponsors listed on the website. I think that also truly sets us apart, as we are not looking to just get all these additional fees. It’s truly an organization created for women to have this great opportunity.”

As of now, IWIRE has a membership base of 69 members, but with 2015 kicking off their fourth year, that number will undoubtedly grow as the organization has so much to offer its members.

“It’s a good organization,” Bergdoll said. “With our singular focus, I think it allows people to interact and ask very specific questions about things that go on in our business. They can get answers from people who have ‘been there, and done that’, and give them a solid answer they can rely on.”

So what kind of impact has IWIRE had on its participants? Bergdoll noted that the organization has opened their eyes to other women in the industry on a different level.

“We’ve gotten to know people better,” she said. “I think there has been a lot of networking, as well as a lot of ideas exchanged, at our meetings and events. I think people feel a sense of comradery amongst our group and I think it’s educated the women.”

"As evidenced by the last event we had,” Bergdoll continued. “I can’t tell you how many people sent me emails, or commented when I saw them at later dates, on how much they learned at our one hour meeting at a construction trailer. So I think it’s had a great impact.”

“There are very few women in CRE just to begin with,” Choi chimed in. “When you go down to the industrial specific sector there are even fewer. So this organization just brings to life the fact that there are actually a surprising number of women that are in the industry and joining. As well as that we are formulating this big think tank, so to speak of, to help each other improve.”

“Some of the events that we’re focusing on for 2015 include a presentation skills seminar,” Choi continued. “That will help the younger generation learn how to speak comfortably in front of audiences, as well as clients. Maybe they will learn skills that they would not have picked up coming straight out of undergrad. We’re there to just help people continue to develop within their career path.”

“You can see from our advisory council and board members, that IWIRE is a very strong group of women that hold leadership positions across the industry,” Choi added. “These women have had many successes in their career that are involved with the organization. So there is a credibility factor behind it, IWIRE is not just a random fly by the night organization that came about. We wanted to make sure that the people that represent the leadership of the organization are people that others want to emulate or be like.”

There’s no telling what’s in store for this phenomenal organization in the years to come, but Choi does have an idea in the back of her mind.

“Taking the organization country wide was always our pipe dream when we first started it,” she said. “We do think that there is a unique group of women across the United States that are involved in industrial real estate. Right now we are still focused primarily in Chicago, although a lot of us do conduct business transactions across the U.S., so that is something on the radar for the future.”