Senior Vice President of JLL, Anya Marmuscak gives advice on how to create a more gender-diverse workplace that accommodates business women.

5 Minute Read
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It’s always a good time to celebrate women who are shaking up the business world, one industry at a time. One such person who is making waves in the corporate world is Anya Marmuscak, a Senior Vice President at JLL – a woman who has worked her way up the ranks in the real estate industry, and is now using her position of power to create a more inclusive space.

Introducing Anya Marmuscak

The start of her corporate career began at Otis Elevator, part of a larger organization, UTC. During that time, she obtained her Undergraduate Degree at Florida State before eventually gaining an MBA when moving to Houston, Texas. 

One day, after deciding she needed a change, she ended up at JLL in the commercial real estate (CRE) space. Currently, Anya is approaching her 10th year as a senior vice president at the company. 

Beyond being a fantastic leader, she also spends her days aiding the efforts to promote gender diversity and equality within JLL’s entire organization – a mammoth of a corporation made up of approximately 93,000 employees. 

Deciding to make a change

Anya prefers the term ‘gender partnership’ rather than ‘gender equity’ as she believes that the best path forward is to create a space where all genders are cohesively working together to build a better business environment that caters and supports everyone in the ways that they need.

Although she recognizes that both JLL and the real estate industry as a whole still have a long way to go in creating a more inclusive environment, she feels that it’s important to note the progress that’s been made so far. “First, I want to acknowledge the fact that we’ve come a really long way in the nine to 10 years that I’ve been here,” she notes. “I’m extremely proud of the changes I’ve seen, both on a local level and then on a corporate level.”

When arriving back in Houston all those years ago and starting out in the real estate industry, she found herself being part of a typical old boys club. Unfortunately, it came as no surprise, as she faced the exact same issue in her previous role in the elevator business. And it’s a situation that every woman in the corporate world has continuously come up against. “I recognized the bias. I recognized that it was a challenge I would have to overcome. But it didn’t stop me in any way that I approached my business.”

Today, however, she’s proud to be whistling a different tune. “I’ve seen at both UTC (now Raytheon Technologies) and JLL that they started realizing that the more diverse their employee base became, the more value they could bring to their clients. So, it’s been neat to be a part of that [transformation] in both organizations.”

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The road to gender partnership

One of the first instances of change she can recall is JLL’s Women’s Business Network – something that she was heavily involved in from the kick-off. “It was a really small effort. And now we have, I think, almost 30 JLL chapters across the U.S.” she notes. The aim of the network was to connect women within the organization to help them progress forward in their careers. 

JLL’s Women’s Business Network symbolized the start of change within the male-dominated real estate industry and beginning of the journey to gender partnership within the company. What once started as an informal get-together to connect and talk about the challenges women were facing in JLL soon turned into a fully built-out infrastructure with clear goals that need to be accomplished in order to attract and retain top diverse talent into the company. And the network extends beyond just supporting internal employees. “Many different functions have come into the real estate conversation. And so we try to find ways that we can support the women in those positions and our clients, not just internally.”

Mentorship and sponsorship plays an important role in elevating and empowering women in business. Anya herself acknowledges that she was only able to reach the role she finds herself in now as a result of the guidance she received over the span of her career. “I’ve had various mentors along the way,” she muses. “So, without focusing specifically on one person, there’s been a certain type of mentor or sponsor that has helped and guided me in each of the roles I had in each organization.” 

A piece of advice she wants every woman to know is, “You have to find and pick mentors. You have to go out and find inspiration and sponsors that will move you forward.” She goes on to emphasize this by detailing her experience with a female intern and one of her past mentees. After watching them grow, the intern was brought on full-time, while the mentee eventually went on to be the first female broker on JLL Houston’s industrial team.

Networking groups aren’t the only efforts JLL is making on the road to gender partnership. The corporation has begun the process of implementing policies to help support a healthy balance between their employees' personal and professional lives. 

Because of the gender and societal norms placed on women, female employees are faced with more obstacles and biases than their male peers. One bias, in particular, that Anya is determined to eliminate in the workplace is that of motherhood being a career-killer. “We’re working really hard to push against this idea that when women get to a certain age, they’re going to get married, have a baby, and then they’re going to be gone and we won’t know if they’re coming back or not.”

The first steps to remedy this issue, she feels, is to acknowledge the bias, as well as acknowledging the challenges that are unique to females, and to start from a place of empathy and understanding. Some of the ways JLL has done this is through launching initiatives like the Mom Project – a non-profit organization that helps women get back into the workforce at every stage of their career journey – and providing paid time off for maternity and paternity leave, as well as offering flexible work schedules and promoting a culture where women feel safe to bring their full self to the office. 

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A smooth sea never made a skilled sailor

Naturally, there are no highs without lows. One of the biggest reasons behind Anya actively working to create a better future for business women is due to the many challenges and hurdles she herself had to face to get where she is.

She notes that always being the youngest person in the room was difficult, as she was not taken seriously by her peers and often felt like she had no value to offer. Fortunately, she soon realized that that wasn’t the case. “Being the youngest in the room doesn’t mean that you don’t have any value to bring to the table.”

Another issue she recalls is taking on too much work as a way to try and prove her worth. She feels that this is something that women do a lot in order to show that they are just as capable and competent as their male peers. “I found out I’m doing 90% of the work, and that was limiting me in being able to do some of the tasks and functions that would enable me to get further along, faster.” Her advice to other women is to “know your own weakness”, as this will ensure that you don’t fall into a habit that holds you back. 

Going back to the age-old gender bias that every woman faces in the business world, Anya suggests inserting yourself into the old boys club if they won’t let you in. “And I would often be the only female out there, but I didn’t care.”

She also urges female leaders to be aware that gender partnership is a two-way street. The best way forward is together. She acknowledges that the isolation women feel in male-dominated space is “still very much here” and that “we have to get better”. But how? “We have to try harder. We have to acknowledge it, and we have to have leadership that recognizes it and isn’t in denial, and is willing to support the change.”

Looking to the future

So, does the future bode well for female leaders, entrepreneurs and all other women in business? Anya Marmuscak seems to think so.

She brings up that more women are graduating college when compared to men, and that more females are entering male-dominated fields, like STEM, as well as women choosing to have children later on in life, or not at all. “I think that’s automatically going to have an impact on more women staying in their career and being focused on career development, improvement and growing.”

There has possibly never been a better time for gender partnership, diversity and equity in the workplace. And it’s needed, as women bring a different mindset, perspective and set of skills to the table than their male counterparts. “We are different creatures. We have individual advantages and unique strengths…and that is what a company needs. It’s going to enhance the culture and enhance the work environment that you’re creating.”

And that's the beauty of a diverse and inclusive workspace – having different views, opinions and mindsets all in the same room, working together to come up with a unique, innovative solution or idea.

This is the future Anya Marmuscak hopes to see, and she knows it can be reached as JLL continues on the path to a strong gender partnership. “I want to see the momentum that we have continue to build and grow.”