"We hire the best - dynamic, skilled, passionate… and many of them just so happen to be women."

- Gerald Divaris, CEO

Talented. Strong. Inspiring. These are the women of Divaris.

In honor of Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day, we are spotlighting and celebrating the strong female leadership and roles that contribute to Divaris Real Estate’s success. Commercial Real Estate remains a historically male-dominated industry, and has been slower than other industries to improve on gender parity. Last year, The Business Journals reported that “women comprised 36.7% of all professionals in commercial real estate.” This figure has largely stayed the same for the past several decades.

At Divaris Real Estate, we are especially proud to have many women at the helm, making up more than 70% of our team and 50% of our leadership and senior-level positions. Two of our five regional offices are female-led by Principals Loretta Cataldi and Jessica Johnson, and women were promoted in 21 of the 27 company promotions in the past year.

Across our offices in Virginia Beach and Richmond, Virginia; Charlotte, North Carolina; and Washington, D.C. we interviewed our team members to share firsthand industry advice, inspiring personal stories, and anecdotes for success. How has their career path shaped them? What are the ways they are leading change and innovation on their team?

Check out their stories through this new weekly series amplifying female voices throughout our organization, and acknowledging the many contributions the Women of Divaris make at work and in their communities.

Meet Loretta Cataldi

“When I started in this business I was honored to work with a group of great mentors. I feel like it’s only my duty to give back to others with that.” - Loretta Cataldi

Loretta Cataldi joined Divaris Real Estate in 2020 as Principal and Managing Broker for the Richmond office. Her official start date was mid-March right as COVID-19 took hold of the United States, and the world, closed public spaces and shuttered the global economy. A self-described people-person who thrives on one-on-one interaction, this pushed Loretta to re-think how she would lead while working remotely. She creatively strategized and aptly pivoted to her clients current and future needs in a time without a playbook or past industry advice to look to.

Loretta has nearly 30 years of industry experience, and is renowned across the region for her business prowess, demonstrated consistency in year-over-year revenue growth, and focus on relationship building. With a passion for retail and development, she specializes in all aspects of sales and leasing for tenants and landlords throughout the Mid-Atlantic.

Women of the Richmond Team

Left to right, top row: Dawn Calabrese, Logan Stycos, Justine Berzowski, Sara Goodall
Bottom row: Rebecca Kohan, Debbie Wake, Emma Hardin
Not pictured: Cheryle Toy, Madeleine Alderman, Ali McCrickard, Brett McNamee

More from Loretta

“Joining Divaris Real Estate as Principal and Managing Broker was a major career accomplishment for me. The opportunity also felt like an acknowledgement of my strength as a mentor and dedication to bringing others up, offering advice to agents at all levels in their career.

I have been working toward transforming the way we think about career development, and launched a mentorship pilot program within our Richmond office, working one-on-one with rising agents at all levels. We are now expanding mentorship programs company-wide, and nationally through our partner, Realty Resources. I won’t deny working in this industry has been fruitful. I am committed to paying it forward by mentoring and empowering more women to get into commercial real estate. Together, we can share our experience, set an example of equitable gains in the industry, climb the same career ladder, and as the women of Divaris have demonstrated – be just as successful.”

Loretta volunteers with the American Suicide Foundationin memory of her brother and to help build awareness; with Junior Achievement as “teacher for a day;” and with local charities throughout the year. She is actively involved with multiple organizations such as the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC), Urban Land Institute (ULI), Commercial Real Estate Women of RVA (CREW), and Greater Richmond Area Commercial Real Estate (GRACRE).

Currently, Loretta is a licensed broker in Virginia, Maryland, and the District of Columbia.

Meet Maria Reed

“I am inspired daily by the strength of our team dynamic, and the joy of seeing all the pieces come together. Divaris isn’t just a place for me to grow, it’s a place where our clients grow and achieve their dreams, too.” - Maria Reed

Maria Reed began her career working in operations and logistics for an interior design firm, but always saw herself working in real estate. With a B.A. degree in Business Administration and Management from Merrimack College and the recommendation of her friend Divaris Associate, Rachel Salasky — she joined Divaris Real Estate’s Charlotte Office. Maria has been working as a transaction specialist for just under one year. Her drive and passion truly shine through the way she talks about her work and tackles every task.

Women of the Charlotte Team

Left to right: Stephanie Patrick, Debra Newsome, Kristal Hodge, Maria Reed

More from Maria

“I came into this job knowing that I wanted to be a part of this dynamic industry , and working for Divaris Real Estate has really transformed how I learned about commercial real estate. From sitting in meetings, to onboarding clients, it’s truly been hands-on experience.

I’m gaining valuable industry insight, and am very involved in every deal that we touch. Our Principal Charles Neil and Cabell Shield are great mentors to me, and it felt like it happened very organically. We’re working with a true team here, and I feel supported with my growth within the company, in my career, and on a personal level.

My role has ended up quite different from the admin position I assumed I would be working, I hoped this would be my foot in the door to set me on my path to become a broker. Growing up, I was inspired by watching other people in the industry, and now I am inspired by the opportunity to find my friends, family, and community a place to grow their dreams and business. It’s exciting to be a part of bringing new concepts and businesses to Charlotte.

It’s important to stay curious. I am constantly asking and wanting to know more, and our brokers always take the time to mentor me. I try to reciprocate and know that it’s important in any job to include in those questions what else can I do? What else can I help with? Those are great ways to learn, too. Always ask questions. Always be curious. Always ask about what you’re interested in.”

Meet Vivian Turok

"When women are assertive and speak up or stand up for themselves, we are often seen in the negative, and too aggressive. I encourage all women to stay assertive, tenacious, ambitious, and determined. We can be the expert in the room without having to be timid about it." - Vivian Turok

Vivian Turok is Divaris Real Estate’s longest standing employee, celebrating 45 years with the company. As Senior Vice President she focuses on office leasing representing both landlords and tenants and brings extensive experience and market knowledge to every transaction as if its her own.

As a graduate of the University of Cape Town, South Africa in the 70s, a young and motivated Vivian met for dinner with a family friend — Gerald Divaris, and convinced him to hire her in an administrative role on a 90-day trial basis. One month in, Gerald asked Vivian to fill in and show a prospective tenant a space. He would offer her commission if a lease was signed. Vivian was a natural fit for the task. The tenant signed a lease earning her six times her monthly salary, and the rest is the trailblazing history of Vivian Turok.

Vivian’s accomplishments and year-over-year growth certainly influenced the rise of women in more prominent roles at Divaris, paving the way for outstanding women to rise within an industry characterized by successful men.

Divaris employs the highest ratio of women in commercial real estate in Hampton Roads, setting the Divaris team apart as one of the only commercial real estate firms in the nation whose hiring and promotion is representative of such equity. When we consider the gender gap and the inroads women have made in the industry through recent decades, we have pioneering women and mentors like Vivian Turok to thank.

Vivian’s Team

Left to right: Jessica Castro, Kelsey Preble, Vivian Turok, Casey Kimmel, Amy Campbell

More from Vivian

“Different strokes for different folks,” that’s what I always say. You have to be able to read your audience to be successful in commercial real estate. Some people want me to lead, and some prefer suggestions and coming to a conclusion on their own. Making a connection, building a relationship, and finding an effective communication style varies by person, and can really make or break a deal.

I have always believed in having good mentors, like Michael and Gerald who have always been my biggest advocates. When I mentor a young person, I always offer the same advice as we focus on our goals: be honest and trustworthy, your reputation is your most important business credential. Don’t ever give up, follow up is crucial.

And finally, family first, always. In this amazing career I have won many awards, but my ultimate trophy is my family and their successes in the future. They are my greatest measure of success, and my greatest investment.”

Meet Elizabeth Napolitano

“Get involved. I got involved in our community through philanthropy and networking very young, and I am grateful for the longevity of those relationships and connections now, 10 years later” - Elizabeth Napolitano

Elizabeth Napolitano joined Divaris 10 years ago as an Executive Assistant and has grown to Assistant Vice President. She specializes in retail leasing and sale services for both Landlords and Tenants throughout Virginia, as well as North and South Carolina.

Elizabeth is a founding member and former President of Generation MOCA, an active member and former chair of the CBDX, and previously served on the executive committee of the Downtown 100. She has been recognized as a local leader and community advocate through Millenial on the Move, Top 40 Under 40, and numerous industry awards.

A Great Mentor

Alex and Elizabeth go head to head in an arm wrestling match!

More from Elizabeth

“When I was hired at Divaris nearly a decade ago, I remember saying, “Commercial Real Estate is a man’s world, and I want to be a woman in it.” And of course when you say that at Divaris, you look around and it is all women, and it’s easy to forget what a male-dominated industry this really is. It’s very motivating to be a part of such a strong roster of women.”

“I also can’t stress enough involvement as a powerful business tool. Get involved, stay involved – building relationships in your 20s and 30s that have the longevity to carry through your career is the key to building your business.”

“Because of a great mentor taking me under his wings I got my name out there. I got involved. I joined young professionals groups, I even helped form new organizations. I felt heard in business and empowered in my community. It is so important to find a mentor in your office, not only to teach you the ins and outs, but also to introduce you to the community. For me, that was Alex Divaris.”

“I was 23 when I started at Divaris, many of my colleagues were 10+ years older than me at that time. It has been so motivating to see that now I can look back 10 years later and be in that position to take someone under my wings. I want to be able to lead others and also offer that support that I was given.”

“Stay connected, and you really can have it all. COVID made us all realize the importance of connectivity, both personally and professionally. COVID hit immediately after my return from maternity leave, I have grown so much in the past year as I learned to pivot and reprioritize doing business through a Pandemic and as a mother. During the quarantine, I took Zoom calls with my 5 month old next to me and completed transactions at my dining room table. We’re often juggling being a parent, a homemaker, a wife, – it’s really a lot of pressure being a woman in this business.”

Meet Alysia Anderson

“You don’t have to know everything, and college doesn’t teach us everything, so ask questions! No question is a stupid question if you’re open to learning.” - Alysia Anderson

Alysia Anderson has been with Divaris for four years. She was originally hired as a Junior Accountant and tasked with a small portfolio of properties. Taking the initiative to shadow senior admins in the office and soaking up everything she could learn, her meticulous work, attention to detail, and strong problem solving skills were quickly noticed. Through the years she has been given more challenging portfolios and “properties with quirks,” as she describes them, along with several promotions. Most recently Alysia was promoted to a new role of Corporate Analyst, a role that is new not only to her but also new to Divaris. This role combines Alysia’s unique skill set, and fills a need as Divaris grows both in size and credentials.

Alysia and her team

From left to right: Kelly Stretch, Chris Taylor, Alysia Anderson, Stefani Puccio, Kristin Latvis

More from Alysia

“I like that Divaris appreciates its employees, and promotes a healthy work and life balance. Employee feedback is always welcomed, and potential career growth is very flexible in alignment with the company’s overall growth. There’s lots of room to grow personally and professionally, and as I have found make a job your own.

Everyone is so open to new ideas and everybody’s door is open. The flow of communication among my colleagues made it easy to try new ideas. When I first look at a task, I like to challenge myself not to do it the easy way, but to find the better way. So I always analyze things from that perspective.

I’m grateful for my new role and that my aptitude for analytical thinking was recognized. It was an area that was maybe missing at Divaris, and we didn’t even know until I dove in and started doing it — performing new reports, making spreadsheets from scratch, and implementing new best practices.

It’s all numbers so it’s either right or it’s wrong — I want it to be RIGHT, and I also want to simplify reports and make them more palatable and visual. I am excited to continue to learn and grow and dive deep into this new position.”

The Women of Divaris

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