When Terry Harris was promoted to a regional chief operating officer at JLL in 2018, she was just the second woman in the company to reach that level.
Ever since, she has gone out of her way to ensure that others would follow, continually providing equity and opportunities for women in what remains a male-dominated industry.
“When you’re purposeful, it’s also unapologetic,” she said.
It’s about making change where change is needed, Harris said.
“We have a lack of representation,” she said. “And it’s not just about having women join the team, but it’s about giving women positions of impact where they can drive decisions, they’re making strategy and they are gaining access to higher compensated roles and opportunity.”
Equity, Harris said, isn’t about taking something away from somebody, it’s about sharing those opportunities more broadly.
Harris now serves as chief operating officer of the Northeast Region. Under her leadership, JLL has hired or elevated more than 25 women in the suburban tri-state area into positions of impact or higher earning potential.
Harris, who has been with the firm in various executive positions since 1995, said she has seen the support JLL has for women grow over the years.
Now, Harris said, she feels JLL is the employer of choice for women in brokerage.
ROI-NJ spoke to Harris and three other women at JLL on the subject, including:
- Jodie Matthews, an industry veteran of three decades, approximately half of which has been spent at JLL;
- Colleen McGuire, a vice president and young mother who has been at the firm since 2018;
- Jessica Ford, an associate vice president who started at the firm last fall.
They each spoke highly of their experiences, including their time in various training programs, such as JLLU, a brokerage training and development initiative.
“JLL is so progressive,” McGuire said. “They have so many different programs in place to help brokers succeed.”
Of course, there’s nothing like the support that comes from a coworker, Matthews said.
“When another woman joins our ranks, they are embraced by the other female brokers,” she said. “It has not felt like competition.
“I’ll call it a sisterhood because we are here for each other. We are here to help each other. If we work together on something, great. But if we don’t, it’s a source of pride to see these younger women succeed.”
Matthews has been a broker for 30 years. Her journey did not start with helpful programs, but hurtful comments.
She vividly remembers being told that no one would want to meet with her because of her gender. Naive at first, Matthews went on with her business only to be stunned to hear, on a cold call, that the man on the other line said there was only one thing she could really provide.
“The preconceived notions are really harmful, horrible and soul-crushing,” Matthews said.
And, while it seemed more commonplace to be treated that way 30 years ago. Matthews said It still happens today. Women still face that dilemma in the workforce, but firms like JLL, with good initiatives and policies in place, are working to take that away and to make the workplace a more comfortable and successful one for the females they employ, she said.
Female peers, especially in leadership positions, have been key.
Matthews said she has found a band of women who all feel they have something to offer — and that they aren’t there to simply check the female box. Approximately one in four brokers at the firm are now women.
“I found my tribe and, together, we’ve been really able to grow our ranks and not just say that we’re invited to go to a meeting because there should be women present at the table,” she said. “I think we’re all strong enough to say, if I don’t have a role, I’m not showing up.”
Matthews said the firm has seen success because it hasn’t been a female- or male-led initiative, but a companywide emphasis.
“It’s been really encouraging to see this kind of growth,” she said. “It hasn’t been easy to get here, but I will give a lot of credit to our leadership, particularly in New Jersey, between Terry Harris and Tim Greiner and Dan Loughlin, really being proponents.”
McGuire, a young mother, said she does not believe she would have the opportunities that she has now at other firms.
“JLL has provided an extraordinary amount of resources to working moms,” she said.
Because of the opportunities, mentorship and resources that JLL has provided, McGuire said she can be both a successful broker and a mother.
“It’s hard to be a female broker and be a mom, but I think the thing that I’ve learned the most is that I’ve have such flexibility in my job and in my career and at my company, that I couldn’t imagine doing something else,” she said. “And I want that stigma to go away and to know that, if you come to JLL, you can do both.”
Ford, who has been at JLL for about six months, said she knew JLL was the right fit for her immediately.
She came to JLL as an already-seasoned professional of business development, but she was new to brokerage. She said she never felt like she was in a silo or that she was figuring things out on her own.
There has been great mentorship from the moment she had her first conversation with leadership, which gave her the confidence she needed to succeed.
Ford, a Black woman, credits company culture.
“The beauty about JLL is that we all come from diverse backgrounds, from different shops,” she said. “But there is something unique about the culture here, and we all want to help each other, and we all thrive on the notion of being a team.”
Ford said that, in terms of her family, she is pioneering this path all on her own.
“There weren’t a lot of folks that went to college prior to me,” she said. “I didn’t grow up having a grandfather or uncle in the business. I’m coming in very green; I am coming in as a seasoned business development professional, but literally almost like a college graduate in brokerage.
“JLL totally gets it in terms of finding talent and then creating a position where you can grow, and you can thrive in your role.”
All of this is great — but what about the bottom line?
JLL officials said that is improving, too.
Harris said productivity at the brokerage has doubled since it has hired more women. And since Harris has taken the chair at JLL, she said business has doubled in revenue and in profit.
That has helped the firm be able to bring in new talent — and compensate them at a high rate from the start.
Harris said JLL recognizes talent and individuals for who they are, not for their date of hire or the job description.
For someone such as Ford, who came to JLL with a professional background but very new to the real estate role, JLL removed the barrier to entry and put a compensation structure around her that would give her the opportunity to be comfortable while she learns the technical side of the business to stand on our own.
Harris stressed the importance of that.
“It’s a hard slog to become a successful broker,” she said. “You can become a broker, but, to actually make money takes time. If you’re not out there executing deals, a lot of the time, your name doesn’t end up on the ticket.
“Colleen didn’t lose a dollar of commission during a maternity leave, because of the support that that was around her, and Jess didn’t lose her compensation, either.”
It goes to the team aspect — one the veteran Matthews said she’s glad to be a part of.
“At this point in my career, I enjoy mentoring other women, both inside and outside of JLL,” she said. “It’s been the most rewarding part of my career.”