A panel of experts, most of which are women: It can be done — and it was, last week in Newark

By Tom Bergeron
Newark | Mar 8, 2020 at 5:30 am

Jennifer Mazawey said she noticed it right away when she looked at the list of her fellow panelists. Her reaction came just as quickly, she said.

“I thought: It’s about time,” she said.

Mazawey, a partner who specializes in land use, construction law, labor and education at Newark-based Genova Burns, was thrilled to see last Thursday’s Real Estate Forecast event put on by the Newark Regional Business Partnership not included women in the discussion, but was built almost entirely around women.

Heidi Learner, chief economist at Savills, gave an opening presentation.

Mazawey was included on a panel that also featured Lisa John-Basta, a member at Chiesa Shahinian & Giantomasi, Elizabeth Limbrick of the state Economic Development Authority and developer Adenah Bayoh, CEO and founder of Adenah Bayoh & Cos.

The makeup of the event wasn’t entirely women. Airaj Hasan of Blackstone 360 was on the panel, which was moderated by Martin Melilli of TD Bank. And John Saraceno of Onyx Equities gave an update on his firm’s work on the Gateway buildings.

Panelists pose for a photo after the talk, along with Heidi Lerner of Savills and Newark Regional Business Partnership’s Barbara Kauffman, both front left.

But the presence of so many females — especially in a sector that has long been dominated by males — was readily apparent. And, according to Mazawey, a welcome change.

“Frankly, I noticed it right away,” she said. “And I certainly notice it when I’m deciding what events to attend. I’m sick of attending what basically is the same event that gets regurgitated time over time. It certainly made a difference to me, and I certainly noticed when (NRBP Executive VP) Barbara (E. Kauffman) put the panel together.”

The best part, Mazawey and John-Basta said, was that they were selected for their talent, not their gender.

“We’re not just being selected because we’re women, we’re being selected because we know what we’re talking about,” Mazawey said. “I just wish that others would follow suit.”

John-Basta agreed. She said the sector is changing — and that needs to be shown at events.

“When I used to walk into rooms, people would say, ‘Where’s the lawyer?’ or ‘Are you the assistant — and who’s coming?’” she said. “I see the change that’s occurring all over the place, with architects and engineers and attorneys. It used to be all male-dominated, and now there’s women.”

Kauffman, who also serves as the president of Executive Women of New Jersey, said the makeup of the event was intentional.

“This is a game-changer,” she said. “Women overall are not getting promoted into managerial positions, but to see a women who heads a major development company and to be able to put her on the panel with partners in real estate firms — and then to have a chief economist who is one of the best economists in the country speak, was very meaningful to me.

“To be able to showcase and to have diversity — diversity of thought, experience — was great, especially in real estate.”

Bayoh was thrilled by the opportunity to showcase what women are doing in this sector.

“It’s amazing to see three other dynamic women on this panel who had something very meaningful to say about development,” she said.