Women real estate leaders faced challenges while climbing to new heights

Karen Deeley

Karen Deeley, senior vice president for Mackenzie Commercial Real Estate Services LLC.

When first starting out as a young commercial construction lender in Baltimore, Karen Deeley was one of only a few women in the field.

“I was not alarmed or intimidated by men,” she said. “(Having four brothers) may have been a big part of it. I had a desire to succeed. I wanted to achieve and I just worked hard for everything I did achieve.”

Today, Deeley serves as a senior vice president for Mackenzie Commercial Real Estate Services LLC. With decades of experience in the financing, sale and leasing of commercial real estate, she mainly does tenant representation at the local, regional and national level. “It is a challenge,” she said. “I love to advocate for the tenant. … It is competitive. I like to be competitive. I like to win. It is fun to come to work to play the game to see if I can win for my client.”

Deeley helped to start the Commercial Real Estate Women (CREW) Baltimore branch in the 1980s. For at least the past 10 years, she has made a conscious effort to get more women into the commercial real estate field, particularly as brokers in the brokerage of sales and leasing in the Baltimore market through support, encouragement and mentoring.

When asked what obstacles she has faced during her career, Deeley notes being in a male-dominated field. “I don’t necessarily come to work every day thinking about the obstacles,” she said. “I just come to work because I can do my job, I want to do my job and I just did my job. … I just did what I needed to do to accomplish the things I wanted to accomplish. I can’t say there weren’t obstacles. They were just never forefront in my mind.”

Debra Reznick Attman

Debra Reznick Attman

Perseverance has kept Debra Attman, a realtor with Long & Foster, going for four decades.

“I just keep going,” she said. “The harder it gets, the more I keep trudging along. I always said I wanted to go out on top yet I never did because I always go, ‘Next year will be even better.’ ”

She is a former president of the Real Estate Million Dollar Association LTD and made charity giving a regular part of meetings.

“I said every meeting we are going to choose a charity and everybody can bring canned goods or money,” she recalls. “I said it is not a question of how much you give, it is everyone gives something.”

As a woman, she faced obstacles. “You are doubted like, ‘Do you really understand the math?’ ” she said. “Men think I am going to be too timid. Just getting people to take you for real (was hard).” When asked how she handled someone thinking she could not do the math, she said she would ask them, “Would you like for me to do it in longhand?”

Terri Harrington, a senior vice president with Mackenzie Commercial Real Estate Services LLC, notes real estate found her. She began her career at a national developer running their shared office suites. After learning about the brokerage side, she decided to make the switch.

Terrin Harrington

Terri Harrington, senior vice president with Mackenzie Commercial Real Estate Services LLC.

“I would rather represent multiple landlords and have variety,” she said. “As a broker, for all intents and purposes, you are running your own business. It was a lot more flexibility. … I love that I can pick my market. I can pick the industry sector that I want to be in. I can pick my hours. I can pick the way I want to handle my business. That is very exciting to me and I enjoy it. I enjoy being involved in an industry where you know what is going on in your back yard.”

While building her professional portfolio, Harrington also worked as a news reporter/anchor for WPOC for 20 years. Through both careers, she decided to advocate for Baltimore to effect change in a positive way. She serves on a number of boards and committees including on the advisory board of the University of Baltimore’s Real Estate & Economic Development Program.

In today’s market, Harrington said, there is a lot of competition.

“You never, in the business that I am in, can wake up and say, ‘Hey, I can coast today.’ I’ve been doing this for 27 years and I wake up every day and say, ‘OK, how am I going to continue to be relevant and be successful and generate business?’ … People in these types of these service professions we all are in a place where we have to eat what we kill. I think the successful ones are the ones that don’t just assume that what is coming in today is going to be what is coming in tomorrow. You have to get up every day and say ‘OK. How am I going to make rain today?’ ”

Women Who Lead This article is featured in The Daily Record’s Women Who Lead: A Woman’s Guide To Business. The mission of the Women Who Lead (formerly Path to Excellence) magazine is to give our readers the opportunity to meet successful women of all ages, backgrounds and beliefs and learn how they define success. Read more from Women Who Lead.

One comment

  1. Great article, Terri, Karen! I could say, “great having successful women who are such positive role models for other women,” but I prefer to acknowledge that you both are awesome role models for anyone in this business, or in any business. Kudos!

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