Career Paths


A powerful revolution is taking place in the dynamic world of real estate—one that celebrates the achievements of women in a traditionally male-dominated industry. Our Real Estate on the Spot: Women in Real Estate Career Paths event helped highlight this revolution by sharing inspiring career paths for women in the field.

4 min read

Recently, IE University held a thought-provoking Real Estate on the Spot: Women in Real Estate Career Paths panel discussion, shedding light on the diverse career paths, challenges and triumphs experienced by women navigating the sector. The event served as a platform to showcase the remarkable journeys of women who have paved the way in real estate, architecture and design.

Moderated by Carolina González-Vives—managing partner at HIDRA Design and director of the Master in Real Estate Development—the panel featured Celma de Almeida, co-founder and CEO of Blue Buffalo Capital and co-founder and director of Lavradio Design; Andrea Palmer, chair of Climate Risk Working Group at PGGM; and Michelle Aoun, project manager for real estate development at SBB Real Estate. Each panelist brought a unique perspective and enriched the conversation with their insights and experiences.

The “why” behind their careers

After greeting the guests, Carolina asked the speakers to talk about their day-to-day experiences in the office, how they found themselves in real estate and what motivates them to continue in this male-dominated sector. Andrea explained that she came into real estate by accident, “I thought, if I join this firm, I can help make real estate in Chicago much more sustainable than it is. So I decided to stay. And this is where I get my motivation. There is no energy transition without real estate. This is a major part of the solution to the global challenges we are facing.” 

Similar to Andrea, Celma wasn’t sure what she wanted to do post-graduation. She helped her family set up a new real estate development company in Portugal and was immediately fascinated by it.

“My strongest motivation for real estate is my commitment to our investors, but also to the projects that we do—they are enduring and we can see the positive impacts.” 

Michelle set out to be an architect after her bachelor’s, but she quickly realized she wanted something more, a role in real estate. “My most rewarding task is being able to work on projects that do more than just turn a profit—they genuinely make a difference in people’s everyday lives. Being able to make projects that help us step toward a more sustainable future feels pretty amazing.” 

Investing in excellence

At the core of the discussion was recognizing the transformative power of education. The speakers each highlighted how the Master in Real Estate Development at IE University helped equip them with the knowledge and skills needed to flourish in the industry. “It was crucial for me to pursue this program.

Women in real estate: navigating challenges and celebrating triumphs

As an architect, I had zero financial knowledge. Gaining a global overview of the sector was the catalyst for my current career path,” said Michelle. 

A bit different, Andrea had already been working in the industry for ten years. The program helped her further her career and gave her the skill set she needed to lead. “I felt strong about what I knew and was able to bring to the table. But as a woman in a male-dominated industry, there’s something about a strong piece of evidence that demonstrates both to myself and to others in the industry that I know what I know and that I deserve this seat at the table.”

Celma came from a background in politics and learned everything she knew until the program on the job. She aimed to gain more solidity in her knowledge base, “There’s a myriad of information you can gain when learning on the job, from technical knowledge and networking to an updated base of knowledge. I used the program to update what I taught myself, gain new perspectives and build an even stronger network.”

Empowering through mentorship

The panelists highlighted the important role of mentorship and networking in empowering women. As the industry continues to evolve, creating a supportive environment for women’s success is becoming increasingly essential. The panelists shared anecdotes and relationships that have fueled their personal and professional growth, emphasizing the importance of paying it forward to the next generation of aspiring professionals.

As they told their stories, they touched on navigating the challenges of a field where women are often underrepresented requires resilience and determination. However, these challenges have also presented opportunities for innovation and growth. By championing diversity and inclusion, organizations can effectively harness the full potential of their talent pool to drive creativity and meaningful change.

Recognizing and celebrating the achievements of women in real estate is also key. Initiatives such as the Women in Real Estate Awards show how women are making a difference in various areas of the profession, setting a benchmark for young women and motivating others to follow their dreams and overcome obstacles.

Continuing the conversation

As the panel drew to a close, it was clear that the conversation surrounding women in real estate was far from over. By amplifying a diverse range of perspectives and advocating for gender equality, the industry can move towards a more fair and inclusive future for everyone. This approach not only benefits women by providing them with equal opportunities but also contributes to the overall diversity and vibrancy of the industry.

IE University’s panel discussion celebrates the accomplishments of women in a field where they have historically been underrepresented. In highlighting the importance of education, mentorship and recognition, the event emphasized how empowering women in real estate, architecture and design can bring about profound change. As we look ahead, we must keep breaking barriers, challenging stereotypes and fostering inclusivity for generations to come.