Women’s History Month

Since 1988, the United States has celebrated March as Women’s History Month. Celebrating the storied history of women and their contributions and accomplishments, each year focuses on a different theme selected by the National Women’s History Alliance. This year’s theme is “Women Who Advocate for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion,” recognizing women “throughout the country who understand that, for a positive future, we need to eliminate bias and discrimination entirely from our lives and institutions.” 
 
Many companies have begun to prioritize and incorporate DEI into their culture and values, and the commercial real estate industry is no exception. A 2023 survey from NAIOP found that some best practices for companies to support DEI initiatives include mentorship programs, employee resource groups and partnerships with local universities. Efforts like these have increased the number of women joining CRE firms, rising from 36.7% in 2020 to 41.4% in 2023.  
 
However, integration into higher-level positions is still slow-moving. Of surveyed firms in a 2023 Construction Financial Management Association study, 25.7% of women are in an executive management position, compared to 50.1% of women in junior roles and 74.3% of men in executive management positions. The main reason women leave their jobs, and one of the main blocks to success, is a lack of advancement opportunities, followed by gender discrimination and lacking a mentor. Even in 2022, only 56% of respondents in a 2022 CREW survey said they had access to a mentor.  
 
Mentorship is vital for any new employee. However, that value rises when a new employee connects with a mentor who looks like them—especially as 71% of mentors seek mentees like them. For example, a female employee may derive more value from a female leader because the leader has created the path the new employee is now on. That employee may feel empowered and supported, knowing the common roadblocks women experience in the workforce, to advocate for herself, and have a better idea of what she wants her career trajectory to be because of her mentor. This is true in CRE, a typically male-dominated field, especially jobs in development, construction, and capital markets.  
 
At STNL Development, we have seven women on our team, covering research, accounting, legal, construction management and development roles. We spoke with one of our female leaders about our DEI efforts, her time in the industry, and how she’s helping other women gain a foothold in CRE.  

Female leadership at STNL

Michaelann Murphy is our Senior Vice President of Development and the first female Principal at STNL Development, joining the ownership team in January 2023. With over 20 years of experience and over $400 million in value created, Michaelann is a force to be reckoned with—especially in the cutthroat, male-dominated world of net lease development.  
 
At STNL, Michaelann oversees three of our client teams, who handle every aspect of the development process. She works and leads under the philosophy that her teams are an extension of her clients’ real estate departments and is always propelled forward by what’s best for her clients. She leads under the philosophy of “we’re all in this boat together,”—meaning that everyone on the team works together to contribute meaningfully, whether the work is high- or low-level. 
 
She is an active member of Women in Real Estate (WIRE), the Urban Land Institute (ULI), the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC), and a co-founder and board member of the Tampa Bay Retail Alliance. Michaelann was a panelist at GlobeSt’s 2023 Net Lease Spring conference, and true to form, she brought another woman to join her on the panel. She won GlobeSt’s 2023 Influencers of Net Leases award and was one of five women on the list of 24 individual winners.  
 
Michaelann began her journey in CRE as an analyst, working her way up to manager, director and finally owner.  One of the main reasons she climbed the ladder was the help of a mentor she brought to STNL.  
 
“When you’re a woman beginning in real estate, it’s hard to find a mentor,” she says. “There’s this concept of finding mentors that look like you, or once you reach a certain level, looking back and reaching your hand out to raise girls. But if nobody is ahead of you, it’s hard to do that.  
 
“I’ve been incredibly fortunate to have some fantastic male leaders in the industry that have been mentors to me,” she continues. “One has been a huge, huge mentor for me. I don’t think I could be where I am in my career if he would not have created opportunities for me.” 
 
With the path established, Michaelann has been mentoring recent female graduates, has hired some of our most promising future leaders to work alongside her, and acts as an advisor for those established in the profession. Her work in adding to our team has been invaluable as we establish our DEI efforts. Company-wide, we foster the entrepreneurial spirit of everyone on our team by allowing them to invest in our projects.  
 
“That’s a huge deal,” she says. “That people with just a couple of years of experience can come in and invest in a real commercial property. I can tell you I certainly did not have that opportunity starting out.”   
 
As a leader at STNL, Michaelann wants to continue our momentum for clients across the country and add to our team.  
 
“Our team is packed with excellent, talented professionals,” she says. “Everyone wants to be the best at their role. We have women on our team who have had storied careers, and we have women on our team who have bright futures ahead of them. I’m excited to continue my work in supporting the women on our team and in the industry and to continue bringing on those just kicking off their careers in real estate.” 

The women on our team

Of course, we would be remiss not to name the other women making a difference on our team:  

Anne Pielage is our Senior Transaction Manager and Paralegal, who supports our transactions from beginning to end. She has been in CRE for over 25 years and is an active member of Cincinnati’s Commercial Real Estate Women (CREW) chapter and a member of the Outreach Committee.  
 
Elissa Morsch is our Controller, handling our day-to-day accounting needs as well as human resources and administration. Like Michaelann, Elissa is a member of WIRE and Cincinnati’s CREW chapter.  
 
Maddie Whitehead is our Real Estate Manager, working at the front end of our development process for our clients. She is the Next Generation Committee Co-Chair for the PA/NJ/DE chapter of ICSC, a CREW member, and a member of the Pipeline, a recently established group for women in retail real estate.  
 
Amanda Bonetti is our Development Project Manager, supporting day-to-day development needs for clients, such as due diligence checks and reviewing architectural designs.  
 
Laura Musa is our Property Accountant, managing accounting functions and sales transactions. Like Anne and Elissa, Laura is a member of the Cincinnati CREW chapter.  
 
Gretchen Binford is our Project Coordination Manager and the newest addition to our team. She works closely with our real estate, development and construction teams on site vetting and analytics tasks.  
 
This Women’s History Month, we hope to continue developing our ongoing DEI initiatives, supporting the women in our workplace, and adding to our excellent team. Commercial real estate is an industry for all, and we hope to continue that sentiment well into the future.