In her current role as Senior Managing Director, Asset Services with Cushman & Wakefield, Sandra Boyle is responsible for the oversight of over 53.5 million square feet across 11 counties in Northern California. With a career spanning nearly four decades, her leadership, knowledge, skill and experience over such longstanding and successful tenure are unmatched, while her industry accomplishments and client service successes are awe-inspiring. She is also a strong motivator and mentor. In further solidifying her respected stature, both in the industry and community, Sandra has also been the recipient of some highly regarded accolades, including recognition as a top and influential woman in real estate by the San Francisco Business Times and CONNECT Media, as well as Cushman & Wakefield’s own CIS Leadership Award. She has also been hand-picked by her company as a candidate for multiple upcoming honors. Let’s get to know more about Sandra:
What led you to pursue a career in real estate?
As many of us who have been in the business for a period of time, there were very few college degrees focused on real estate—we often fell into the business by chance. I specifically came into the business through residential real estate brokerage having studied biology in college.
What are some of the necessary progressions you’ve noticed in the CRE industry that have positively impacted women? And what are some of the biggest changes you’ve made within yourself?
The progression has been very dramatic over the last 15 years unlike historical participation by women in the industry. During the economic downturn of the early 1990’s, there was a birth of many women-owned businesses breaking into the industry because of government contracting. The trend began albeit in property management and accounting. This progression continued with women engaging further in undergraduate and MBA programs promoting finance and core real estate programs. This progressed to the present as we see many more women in asset management, banking, brokerage and development.
I was raised by a father who said that you can do anything that you set your target on. Breaking into the industry as a residential real estate broker pushed me into the world of commercial real estate. Through hard work, drive, and a positive attitude I made it a goal to learn and absorb everything at every level of the CRE industry that I could, along with a desire to be the best.
What does Women’s History Month mean to you why is it important that we celebrate?
Women have traditionally accepted their role of being the child bearers and the homemakers. After World War II, it became more and more common for women to also enter the workforce, especially as there were more and more women attending college. Today, we have a much more balanced workforce of both women and men, but for the most part many women are still juggling careers, children, family, and caregiving—this is not to say that men are not also taking an active role in these homely roles.
It is important to applaud the journey of women. We should be proud to participate with men in our industry today on an equal footing and acceptable standards.
How important is it that women, particularly young women, have not only mentors but role models in the CRE industry to learn and grow from?
Although we are seeing our ranks filled with women, our industry is complex and requires continual learning and growing. What I see is a group of very bright female individuals, who have the amazing analytical and basic skillset to be successful in the industry. However, what I don’t see is their ability to hit the ground running with their technical skills. These women need mentoring in leadership, operations real estate knowledge and political savvy to survive in today CRE industry.
In one sentence, what is one message or piece of advice you learned you would share with these women?
Never, never stop learning and never act as if you know everything—wake up every day seeking greater knowledge and depth in our complicated industry.
Political and or personal views aside, who is a public woman figure (past or present) that you model yourself after and or hold deep admiration for? And why?
Eleanor Roosevelt. She was a tireless advocate of human and civil rights in a world of depression and war. She broke any traditional mold of a woman and as result became a highly visible figure. I offer her quote: “Women are like teabags. You don’t know how strong they are until you put them in hot water”
In what ways would you say you have either helped break the mold or helped shape the advancement of women, whether in CRE or the community?
I knew I broke the mold when I sat in a room full of CRE individuals at a National Advisory Council meeting for BOMA, and I was the only woman in the room. The men in the room treated me equally and with great respect! In the room were Sam Zell and Julian Studley.
What does it mean to you to empower women?
Women have to empower themselves – reach for the sky and also look back and learn from your mistakes! Always, always act with professionalism.
Are there any myths or stereotypes when it comes to the CRE industry that you feel are untrue or need to be tuned out when it comes to a person’s gender?
I truly believe that there are no barriers if you seek to be a part of this industry today – whether it is construction or asset management.
How would you say that Cushman & Wakefield has helped in the advancement of women in the industry, yourself included?
There are no barriers at Cushman & Wakefield – if you desire to succeed in any area of this company you will be given the opportunity.
What are some of the attributes it requires to be successful in your role?
Absolute highest level of professionalism, listening, a vulnerability to share your humanity, a willingness to take on anything – a constant journey of giving back to your people and your clients.
What are some of your strongest attributes that help define who you are?
The ability to play chess not checkers.
What are some of your favorite enjoyable hobbies outside the office?
Golf, cooking, art and piano. And binge watching a Netflix series or gardening.
What is something you have never done but would really like to do in your life?
Is there anything else noteworthy about yourself, your role or the CRE industry that those listening might take away from this interview?
Above all, I would tell women and people of all genders, continue in a path of constant learning, choose a mentor to bounce off all ideas, stay focused, be passionate, and be unforgettable to your clients.
Additional words of wisdom:
If you map your career, look at how others reach that place.
Imagine–create a vision–reaching to your next level.
Inspire yourself into action.
Motivate yourself and stay motivated.
Bring your ideas to the table.
Bonus bio info: Sandra’s professional affiliations are far too lengthy to mention, but chief among them include as a member and past chair for BOMA International National Advisory Council, a member of Bay Area Council: Workplace Strategy Committee, and member of NAIOP: National Forum – Office Development, and more. Sandra has also served on the Board of Directors of the San Mateo Police Athletic League and was instrumental in forming a scholarship program for troubled youth—as result of her dedicated effort, she is now an Honorary Board Member.
Story by Joshua Deale, Senior Communications Specialist