An internationally recognized expert on policy and finance for affordable housing and community development, Marc Norman was appointed the associate dean of the NYU SPS Schack Institute of Real Estate in July 2022. Trained as an urban planner, he has worked in the field for over 25 years. His focus at the Schack Institute is on educating the next generation of diverse leaders in real estate and urban development in New York City, across the US, and around the globe, taking an interdisciplinary approach to critical issues including housing, economic development and design, sustainability, and property technology.
Recently, in advance of the 5th Annual Women in Real Estate Symposium on October 13, hosted by the Schack Institute of Real Estate, Norman shared his perspective on the role of women in the real estate industry.
Is real estate a good career for women?
I would say yes, but this is probably a better question for women in the industry. Real estate touches everything we do, from the home to the office, retail, industrial, and institutional space. Real estate is a career that puts you in the front seat of crucial decision-making. The spaces we inhabit have to be selected, negotiated, financed, and managed. Women should be at the forefront of how we craft our cities and spaces.
What has been the role of women in real estate traditionally?
A gateway for women into the industry has been through brokerage, i.e., sales agents. More than 60% of agents in the US are women. In other real estate sectors like development, private equity, or construction management, women are woefully underrepresented, and these sectors provide higher salaries, more stability, and more agency. We need better pathways and pipelines for women into these parts of the industry.
What role does Schack play in creating these pipelines?
At Schack, we provide a range of options for engaging and embedding women in the industry from licensure courses, continuing education, and bachelor’s and master’s degrees, so I see our role as increasing numbers in the high-value, high-touch sectors while offering courses and content for entry into the industry and deepening expertise.
What strengths do women bring to senior management roles in real estate?
I’ve been lucky to have the majority of my bosses and mentors be women. From them I’ve seen and learned to have less ego and be more collaborative. They’ve also had a keen sense of the markets from the experience of living and engaging with diverse constituencies and having to navigate environments that aren’t optimized for a diverse workforce or family composition.
What are the challenges they face?
Once again, this is probably a question for women in real estate to answer. That said, real estate finance, development, and construction haven’t been disrupted in the same way other industries like tech have. Lots of legacy families and dynasties, in addition to established banking and investor relationships, mean it is harder for new players to enter these fields. I think the marriage of real estate and tech will create alternative pathways to opportunities and market share.
What advice would you give to women—and men—looking to enter the industry?
Come to events like the WiRE Symposium, our Capital Markets Conference, and our REIT conference. Even in 2022, nothing beats meeting people in person and networking.
How do events like WIRE help promote DEI initiatives?
WiRE is an amazing event that embodies Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. It reflects the world we are working toward and offers engagement and opportunities for dialogue that traditionally hasn’t been available.
What are some initiatives you are working on at NYU SPS regarding DEI?
I prefer to embed the principles of DEI into our existing systems rather than create new initiatives. Granted that takes more work, but it will have better results in the long run. That involves looking at what we teach, how we hire, and what projects and people we expose students to. It’s easy to default to those we’ve always reached out to rather than be deliberate about our recruiting and partnerships.
What does the future of real estate look like?
The future of real estate might be something we see to a certain extent, but it is mostly what we don’t see. In the future, we will insure, inhabit, finance, and design things differently. This is where I see an advantage for Schack students. Our faculty and collaborators are framing this future now. The buildings might look the same, but everything else will change.
Any upcoming talks and presentations you can share with us?
I do a lot of talks, but I’m excited about an episode of a TV show that will be released soon in which I drive around Palm Springs in a vintage car talking to a wildlife biologist about how humans change the built environment and the ways animals and insects adapt.