While other industries have been more difficult to penetrate, many areas of the fast-paced world of real estate have long been the professional domain of women. The past two decades have witnessed an influx of women as innovators in their fields, blazing a trail for women of today to follow in a competitive, high-stakes industry. The Cooperator spoke with a few of these industry pioneers about their roots, their work, and how they've successfully navigated the changing waters of New York real estate.
"When I was in law school women made up only 20 percent of the incoming students," says Marcie Waterman Murray, a principal and founder of the Manhattan law firm of Deutsch Tane Waterman & Wurtzel. "Today they make up more than 50 percent of the class." In fact, says Murray, women represent 55 percent of attorneys working today.
"Originally, I wanted to be an archaeologist," remembers Murray. "Then I heard a lecture by a very old woman who said she spent 35 years as a secretary before anyone would finance her own expedition. I wasn't willing to wait that long." So Murray decided to pursue a master's degree in urban planning at Hunter College. A dean in the graduate department mentioned to her that a joint program was being offered with Brooklyn College and in 18 months less than it would normally take, Murray walked away with her master's, as well as a law degree.
After grad school, Murray completed a fellowship in Germany, which was instrumental in determining her career path. "My first job was with an attorney who had fled Germany in 1933. He did a lot of estates, trusts and real estate," relates Murray. "Then I went to work for one of the large firms as a real estate associate." After several years, she banded together with three other associates, who with an initial investment of $10,000 apiece founded their own firm specializing in real estate, litigation and German-related work.
On the decision to start her own business Murray says, "After my experience with a large corporation, I wanted to do something on a more human scale." While female attorneys are now commonplace, she says gender-bias does exist. "In the beginning, older male attorneys would call me "˜Honey'," says Murray. "You hardly ever hear that anymore." Murray does point out that women still often have to work harder to earn respect from their clients.