“We tease that we’re an industry full of middle-aged white men. But we’re trying hard not to be that.”
It's just after 1 p.m. and Sheri Ross, NAP's Director of Leasing, has already negotiated a lease amendment with an attorney, pitched the Atlanta-area mixed-use development Avalon to a retail broker, and is getting ready to look over marketing materials for the world's largest retail real estate convention in Las Vegas next month. “My day is very diverse, and I love the challenges of the different disciplines,” she says of her demanding schedule. “But it certainly requires an enormous amount of focus, effort and time.”
In a male-dominated industry, it's unique to find a woman in Sheri's position, and she explains that it's partly about the significant time commitment the job requires—something that men have traditionally been more able or willing to give. “It definitely takes a lot of investment outside of the office, from the things we do to build customer relationships with our retailers, to events we attend and other centers we go to visit. I'm constantly working,” Sheri says.
That round-the-clock work ethic is something she learned as a child growing up on a tobacco farm in eastern North Carolina. “If the cows got out at 10:30 at night, you got out of bed, put your shoes on and went to put the cows back in,” she recalls with a laugh. “The job was never done!”
Sheri traded farm animals for general contractors and tenants in 1990, kicking off her career in real estate in property management, and today she’s working to impart her years of expertise to young women entering the industry. “Women are the catalyst and mentoring is the key,” she says frankly. “If women like me invest in young women and really encourage them, I think we may start to see more females in this field.”
She goes on to emphasize the value of having a woman in her position given one of the types of real estate NAP develops: retail. “When you think about what retail is, many of the employees that work in our centers are women, and a significant number of our guests are women. So you really do benefit from having a female's perspective in the work that we do here,” Sheri says.
“At NAP I've been given the opportunity to be in this position and I feel a responsibility to use that to empower the young people who join our team — not just women, but especially women,” she adds. “But the thing is, it doesn't matter who you are or where you are here at NAP, you're free to throw out an idea, whether it comes from a female receptionist or the managing partner. You're never not listened to just because you're a woman. It's incredibly unique.”
“We value input from everyone. Male or female; it doesn’t matter.”