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Women’s History Month at Common

Celebrating the women of Common

As Women’s History Month comes to a close, we want to celebrate the amazing women who have made Common the business it is today. Real estate may be a male dominated industry (almost 70% of real estate developers are men) but women are invaluable across every team and everything we do at Common, from engineering to architecture.

We wanted to hear from these women and learn from their professional experiences working in male dominated fields. What are the challenges? What advice would they give other women? And, because there’s always an upside, what do they enjoy about it?

You can read their full responses below. As you’ll see, being a woman at Common is not a singular experience, because it’s not what defines the work these incredible people do.

Jenn Chang

Director of design and architecture

What’s the biggest challenge of being a woman at a real estate company?

Real Estate an established field in New York City with a lot of history, so there’s a type of personality that comes with it.  (i.e. our president…) It’s difficult to challenge the traditional approach at the negotiating table.

What do you love most about working at Common?

I love the exposure to different teams, dev, marketing, real estate, finance.  There’s a lot to be learned from everyone.

What advice do you have for women entering real estate/your field?

I think it’s good to remember that women don’t have to take on behaviors that we traditionally see men have in the workplace.  For example, it’s not necessary to be immediately decisive all the time to be a good leader, it’s okay to rely on your team and peers to help make decisions.  It’s very likely that the latter approach has a better outcome.

Rebeka Avendano

Senior Member Services Specialist

What’s the biggest challenge of being a woman at a real estate company?

A lot of the work I do is from the POV of Common as a Property Management company. The biggest challenge for me has been having no past start up experience, but I’ve always believed that hard work and scrappiness can go a long way. I can’t say that is a uniquely female experience but being a native New Yorker and woman of color has given me a different perspective than a lot of my peers, which is valuable and I have used that to carve my own role.

What do you love most about working at Common?

At my last job I was the only woman. Here I am one of many. It’s been very nice working with women, again, learning from them, and really seeing the array of interests they have here.

I also like that I can do my own thing here without feeling representative of my sex, or hearing “angel of the hearth” type monologues. All the of my successes here have everything to do with how I think, and absolutely nothing to do with some imaginary female touch — I like that, because it’s true.

What advice do you have for women entering real estate/your field?

Be kind, curious and competent. Trust your gut and speak your mind. It’s okay to feel like a different person every day — don’t feel like you have to fight hard against some old school gender norm. Some days I dress like Bob the Builder and talk like a sailor, other days I’m skimming housing codes in neon frills.

Just fight to improve yourself. You can always be a better communicator and a better helping hand. If you focus on those things in life, doors will open for you. Have interests outside of work, talk to people, like stuff!

Don’t let anything define the trajectory of your life more than what makes you tick. Remember that you are a whole person, not a list of things you hate.

Jess Kaplan

Vice President of Finance

What’s the biggest challenge of being a woman at a real estate company?

I wouldn’t say this is a challenge, per se, but coming from the retail and fashion industry, I was very accustomed to being surrounded by other women.  It’s been a culture shock to frequently find myself as the only woman sitting at the table, but this only empowers me to keep working harder and make sure I bring my best self to work everyday.  I feel as though I have a responsibility to represent women in the finance and real estate industry, and that is very cool!

What do you love most about working at Common?

The people!  Everyone is so engaged and super driven to accomplish our common goals.  I find that my coworkers are incredibly reliable and talented in each and every one of their fields.  I’m very lucky to work with such smart individuals and that’s something I don’t take for granted!

What advice do you have for women entering real estate/your field?

Don’t be afraid to speak up!  It can be intimidating to be the only woman in a room, but remember that your opinion is just as important as everyone else’s.  It’s also helpful to find a mentor; someone you can speak with candidly and who can offer you advice on how to navigate your career.  This is something that has helped me immensely throughout the years.

Marni Goltsman

Software Engineer


What’s the biggest challenge of being a woman at a real estate company?

Most of my male colleagues are very comfortable with a “fake it til you make it” attitude, while I have a tendency to be much more transparent. This can sometimes lead to my taking on less complicated projects, even though my abilities are on par with my peers. Thankfully, my teammates and I have a good habit of leveling each other up at every opportunity, so I am often encouraged to step up and throw caution to the wind!


What do you love most about working at Common?

Common is one of the best startups I’ve ever worked at for three reasons:

1. There is a “there” there. We have real members living in real homes right now — I’m not writing thousands of lines of code for something that has not yet materialized.

2. A very “grown-up” approach to work-life balance: How can I provide the most value to my team? Remote options and flexible hours are all in play.

3. We have a Space team — need I say more? 


What advice do you have a for women entering Software Engineering?

1. Don’t undersell yourself! (Or if you feel you must, preface it by saying: “I often undersell myself…”)

2. Don’t be intimidated by other engineers — your contributions are equally valuable.

3. Seek out teams/managers that prioritize respect, humanity, and diversity.

Molly Graizzaro

Communications Manager

What’s the biggest challenge of being a woman at a real estate company?

A challenge could be having female leaders to look up to in a male-dominated industry. I’m so lucky this isn’t true at Common. With women like Sophie Wilkinson, Jenn Chang, Jess Kaplan, and so many more, I constantly feel like I’m surrounded by women I admire. I think it’s so important to find that person that you can look up to, no matter what field you’re in. With real estate, finding your person can be especially hard given the limited amount of women in the field. 

What do you love most about working at Common?

I love working at Common because there’s so much room for high-level thinking. Everyday I am both in the weeds of my work, pitching reporters, talking to influencers and brands, but I have the ability to take a step back and make sure I’m on the right track. At previous companies, there was a real “head down” culture where you didn’t get the chance to collaborate and work with other teams to make something great. It’s so fun to get creative with the architecture team, be strategic with the real estate team, and problem-solve with the member services team.

What advice do you have for women entering real estate/your field?

I would advise young women entering real estate to not be intimidated when you walk into a room and you’re the only woman. Use that as a strength, because being a woman is a huge, obvious strength in all aspects of your life. Pair that with confidence and you’re set.

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