Female Mentoring: Inland’s Blueprint for Fostering Executive Growth in Commercial Real Estate

March 28, 2013
Center for Women in Business

Alyssa Templeton is the Media Relations Coordinator for The Inland Real Estate Group of Companies, Inc.

As women continue to rise through the ranks and become prominent players in today’s commercial real estate industry, company leaders are looking for ways to foster female executive growth and advancement.  The Inland Real Estate Group of Companies, Inc. (Inland) has been a leader in this endeavor and has had a long history of encouraging and promoting an environment that facilitates the growth and empowerment of women.

Early in its establishment, Inland recognized that highly motivated, upwardly mobile female employees were critical to the company’s long-term success.  As a result, the company has cultivated several award-winning female executives recognized by the commercial real estate industry.  Looking to these accomplished women, Inland implemented a female mentoring program in which women can share their personal and professional challenges and successes with other female employees.

For companies looking to start a mentoring program, the following tips from Inland’s successful experience provide a blueprint for instituting a mentoring initiative:

Define a strategic vision and goal.  Although Inland has always had an inclusive culture and offers many career resources, its female executives wanted to create a more formalized program.  Open to women within all levels of experience and departments to be mentors or mentees, the program provides traditional mentoring formats combined with reverse mentoring strategies to promote a balanced community of learning and knowledge sharing.

Understand and cater to your audiences.  A fundamental aspect of the program is to reach a wide range of women from all areas of expertise and career stages.  Although every program and topic won’t apply to all of these audiences, creating a mix of mentors from all career levels and programs can appeal to different women’s careers and lifestyles in today’s corporate environment.

Engage experts in various fields.  Seeking outside experts with fresh perspectives and expertise can provide mentees with career education opportunities that might not otherwise be accessible within their departments or companies.  These experts can be from a variety of industries and organizations, including financial experts, life coaches, communication consultants, entrepreneurs and more.  

Try different formats.  A key ingredient to keeping mentees engaged and interested is to provide compelling program topics and formats.  Popular mentoring formats today range from reverse mentoring, where young professionals tutor senior-level executives on the challenges and needs they face, to “speed mentoring,” keynote presenters and one-on-one mentoring.  

Obtain feedback from mentees.  A crucial component to the success of any mentoring program is feedback from participants.  Tailoring each program to address the specific challenges and issues women of all levels and experience face will keep female employees engaged, committed and interested in continuing their personal and professional development.

“Inland has always provided ample opportunities for career growth company-wide,” said Judy Fu, chief compliance officer for Inland Institutional Capital Partners and an eight-year Inland veteran.  “But it’s so nice to see the executives taking the time to create a structured program with a focused agenda for women.  It really shows that they want to be involved in employees’ personal and professional paths.”