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March/April 2019



CAI’s women leaders inspire a new mission to identify, recruit, and mentor the next wave of women and men to become managers, homeowner leaders, and business partners.
By Julie Warren

©2019 Community Associations Institute

LEADING LADIES. CAI’s Board of Trustees, Community Association Managers Council, Homeowner Leaders Council, and Business Partners Council gathered in January for a retreat in New Orleans before the Community Association Law Seminar. Women currently hold eight of 15 positions on the Board and 20 of 33 on the councils. Left to right: Melissa Ramsey, CMCA, AMS, PCAM; Catherine C. Smith, CMCA, AMS, PCAM; Lisa Cox, CMCA, AMS, LSM, PCAM; Cheryl Palent; Gina Roldan; Janet Newcomb; Sara Ross, esq.; Judyann Lee, esq.; Pamela D. Bailey, CMCA, AMS, PCAM; Pat A. King; and Jessica Towles, CMCA, AMS, PCAM. Judith Silva; Cat Carmichael, CMCA, PCAM; Ursula K. Burgess, esq.; Kara Cermak, CMCA, AMS, PCAM; Staci M. Gelfound, CMCA, AMS, PCAM; Ashley Nichols, esq.; Jennifer Agravat; Cynthia A. Jones, esq.; and LaTonya Young-Clayborne, CMCA, AMS, PCAM. Not pictured here but also serving in leadership roles are Judith Hanson and Julia Holland, CMCA, AMS, PCAM.

Across the country, women are making headlines by seeking and accepting leadership roles in government and business. In January, a record number of women took their places in the 116th Congress, and a variety of new state laws and initiatives went into effect that mandate how many women are to be appointed to corporate boards.

Despite these advances, only 25 women today are chief executive officers—less than in 2017—of Fortune 500 companies. Nine women currently serve as state or territorial governors, and fewer than 19 percent of U.S. cities with a population of more than 30,000 have women mayors, according to the U.S. News and World Report and U.S. Conference of Mayors.

For women in community associations, however, leadership is—and always has been—the norm.

CAI’s 2019 President Cat Carmichael, CMCA, PCAM, continues the organization’s 46-year tradition of women regularly taking the helm. The 10th female president in CAI history, Carmichael is joined on the 15-member Board of Trustees by seven other women, including president-elect Ursula K. Burgess.

Women currently also hold 20 of 33 positions on CAI’s three membership councils: nine of 14 positions on the Community Association Managers Council; five of six spots on the Homeowner Leaders Council; and six of 13 places on the Business Partners Council.



​​​Nearly half (46 percent) of all community association management company CEOs are women, according to the 2017 Community Association Manager Compensation and Salary Survey by the Foundation for Community Association Research. The survey also found that women make up the majority of management company executives (62 percent), portfolio managers (72 percent), on-site managers (62 percent), and large-scale managers (55 percent).

As rewarding as it may be to celebrate all women have achieved—and continue to achieve—within CAI and community associations in general, Carmichael would rather focus on what comes next. She’s calling on all CAI members to recruit and mentor more women—and men—in all aspects of the profession.

“My 2019 initiative is developing the next wave of talent,” says Carmichael, founder of Strategy 1 2 3, a management company consulting firm. “We need to be creative and put together a strong bench of managers, business partners, homeowner leaders, and volunteers to serve CAI’s growth and replace those who are retiring or moving to other opportunities.”

Ursula K. Burgess, an attorney with Rees Broome in Fairfax, Va., and CAI’s 2019 president-elect, adds that CAI’s success depends on the current group of leaders making sure that qualified people are ready to follow.

“We need to make sure that CAI members get the mentorship they need and are encouraged to be meaningfully involved,” says Burgess.



Carmichael’s ambitious goal offers a tremendous opportunity. It also presents a formidable challenge.

The rapidly growing proportion of new homes in community associations is amplifying the market for qualified, capable managers and willing volunteers, but with unemployment at historic lows, what can CAI members do to inform and encourage emerging professionals—particularly ambitious young women—to consider the opportunities for advancement, education, and credentials that the community association field offers?




It starts with sharing what you do.

Admittedly, community management is not a universally recognized profession like accounting, law, finance, government, or teaching. In many ways, though, the industry incorporates these and other career paths.

“I tell everybody who will listen,” says Carmichael about opportunities in community management.

Recently, she and Jan Newcomb, a member and former chair of CAI’s Homeowner Leaders Council, met with the president of Cal State University Long Beach and deans of several schools there to promote CAI’s curriculum and opportunities available in the profession. A member of the school’s board of governors shared what he learned from them about CAI with a young friend who is a recent college graduate.

“He sent me her resume and asked me to connect her with a management company in the Los Angeles area,” says Carmichael, who did just that. “This young woman is visiting the company to shadow seasoned managers with the expectation that she may become a manager candidate. This is how creative we have to be to attract people to our industry. It’s no longer about the help wanted ads.”

Mentorship and networking are other parts of the next-generation puzzle.





Alicia Granados, CMCA, AMS, PCAM, vice president and HOA sales manager at Pacific Premier Bank and president-elect of CAI’s Rocky Mountain Chapter, has benefited greatly from her network.

After nearly a decade as a stay-at-home mom, Granados felt ready to resume her career. She already had several years’ experience as a community manager and as an executive at Hammersmith Management, AAMC, in Denver, prior to taking time off to raise her children.

“Another manager I had worked with and remained friends with knew that I wanted to come back into the industry,” says Granados. “She also knew Cat.” The mutual acquaintance introduced the two, and Carmichael encouraged Granados to give association banking a try.

Granados credits Carmichael, a former senior vice president at Pacific Premier Bank, with pushing her outside her comfort zone and encouraging her to apply what she already knew about association management to a different aspect of the industry.

“Cat told me early on that she was hopeful I would have her job someday,” says Granados. “You know somebody is a mentor and not a boss when he or she isn’t afraid of the success of the person they’re training.”

“I might have opened some doors for her,” says Carmichael. “But she walked through them.”

Granados also considers John Hammersmith, CMCA, AMS, PCAM, CAI’s immediate past president and her employer before she took time off, as another mentor.

She recalls an incident when working for Hammersmith that made a significant impression on her: “I was telling him about a woman I knew who had this amazing job in Paris,” says Granados, who was bemoaning some of the more mundane day-to-day problems managers face.

“I was a little jealous,” she says. “And I vividly remember what John said to me: ‘You’re not looking at the big picture and at what you actually do. You are managing extensive amounts of real estate and multimillion-dollar budgets and contracts. You are responsible for building community for people.’ He went through the list of what this industry is really about when you step away from the parking problems and pet issues. And it gave me a different perspective.”

Granados has had her turn as a mentor too. At Hammersmith, she hired and trained several people who are still in this industry.

“Some of them have their own companies now, and many have earned their PCAM designations,” Granados says. “I’d like to think I had some influence there.”

She is also building her team at Pacific Premier. “As a banker, it’s newer for me, but I feel like I’ve learned to take that leadership role.”


In her teens, Julia Holland, CMCA, AMS, PCAM, worked part-time for her mother, Shelly Holland, CMCA, LSM, PCAM, director of management services with Golden Valley Property Management in Phoenix and a past president of CAI’s Central Arizona Chapter.

“Even as a little kid, I remember her bringing me to board meetings at her office,” says the younger Holland about her introduction to the industry. “I would sit in the back and do my homework.”

Dismissing the idea that she would ever become a community manager, Julia enlisted in the U.S. Army right out of high school to indulge her wanderlust and spent a few years stationed in Alaska.

When her military service was complete, Julia returned to Arizona and got a job as a portfolio manager. “I’ve always felt the need to be of service to my community and my country, and I already had a love for associations,” says Julia, whose father and grandmother also worked in community associations. “It’s what our family does.”

Holland adds that, at this point, her own 14-year-old daughter has no interest in community management. “But I said that too, and here I am.”

Now an on-site manager for a large 55+ planned community in Scottsdale, Ariz., Holland also claims Carmichael, her mother’s long-time best friend, as her mentor.

“She’s always been … someone I’ve gone to a lot, especially when I became interested in getting involved (in CAI) on a national level,” Holland says.

Taking a cue from her mother and Carmichael, Holland was elected to serve on CAI’s Community Association Managers Council nearly two years ago and recently joined the Board of Trustees. She supports Carmichael’s initiative wholeheartedly.


“I have the best mentor,” exclaims Lisa Cox, CMCA, AMS, LSM, PCAM, community manager at Sienna Plantation, a large master-planned community in Missouri City, Texas. She’s referring to Sandy Denton, CMCA, LSM, PCAM, general manager at Sienna and a CAI past president. The two had worked together for a few years at another community and were recruited 14 years ago to join Sienna.

“A great mentor is someone who provides just the right balance of guidance and encouragement to allow you to discover your own outstanding skills,” Cox says. “I’ve been extremely fortunate to have Sandy as my mentor because she mastered that balance and helped me achieve so many of my goals.”

Cox originally specialized in the recreational aspects of large communities and says she has learned a lot from Denton about other functions in management, including organization and strategic planning. “Sandy has a very well-thought-out, year-long planning process,” Cox says. “She also encouraged me to take courses and get my designations.”

Granados agrees that supporting a direct report’s education is another way to mentor.

“Taking courses and getting your designations is a big piece of connecting with mentors and seeing what the industry looks like as a whole,” she says. “It’s through CAI education that you meet the best people in the industry and find opportunities through CAI education.”

Currently, CAI’s Essentials of Community Association Management (M-100) is available to college students through programs at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Va., Montclair State University and Mercer County Community College in New Jersey, Lackawanna College in Pennsylvania, and Central Piedmont Community College in North Carolina. Other institutions in Northern Virginia, California, and Oregon are considering including CAI material in their curriculum.

But Carmichael thinks more can be done to introduce young people, particularly at the college level, to the community management profession. She encourages executives from local management companies to visit college classrooms that offer CAI education—or similar offerings— and tell students, “I’m the person who cares that you’re learning this. I’m the person who has the jobs.”


Meanwhile, volunteers also need mentoring and education to further community associations.

Whether on CAI national and chapter boards and committees or volunteers in their communities, volunteers need a special kind of mentoring because their terms are short, and they need to get up to speed quickly, says Newcomb.



Burgess recently was the keynote speaker at Jumpstart January, a CAI Washington Metropolitan Chapter annual event to motivate and recruit committee members and other volunteers. She reminded the more than 300 attendees that her first CAI volunteer leadership position was as the 2010 chair of the chapter’s education committee. Next year, she will be CAI’s president.

Dave Caplan, CMCA, AMS, PCAM, was a very good mentor when he was CAI president in 2015, according to Burgess. Principal of Community Association Management, AAMC, in Maryland, Caplan told her it was his responsibility to figure out who was going to take his job.

“That was important to him, and I’m of the same mind,” she says. “I want to see people succeed, and I want to see people move up.”


Holland, who participates with several other senior-level managers in an emerging-leaders program through their employer, FirstService Residential, believes it’s incumbent upon the industry’s current leaders to prepare for what— or who—comes next.

“We need to train our replacements,” she says.

Launched a few years ago, the First- Service program invites those new to the profession to shadow seasoned managers. “I’ll have (portfolio managers) help with board packets or long-term planning, which helps them think outside the box,” Holland says.

Recognizing that women attorneys who represent common-interest communities can face special challenges, California lawyers Jasmine Hale and Laurie Poole organized a women attorneys initiative last year at their firm to support women already on staff. The program supports professional development, identifies the unique career challenges women attorneys face, promotes work-life balance, and provides a network for advancing leadership opportunities at Adams Stirling Law Corporation, which exclusively represents community associations.

“We wanted to provide opportunities to mentor each other,” says Poole, a fellow in CAI’s College of Community Association Lawyers. “Being a female lawyer who represents common-interest developments can seem insurmountable on some days. … Because of the number of meetings we’re required to attend outside of traditional office hours, there’s an extra layer of expectations.”

Hale points to building loyalty among colleagues as a benefit of the initiative.

“At the end of the day, when you have more loyal employees, men and women alike, you have a better business,” adds Hale. “And one of the ways you can have more loyal female employees, whether they’re attorneys or in other positions, is by helping them attain their goals— family, career, or life related.”



In addition to recruiting and mentoring, Carmichael also would like to see management company executives share good personnel who may have to relocate from one region to another for personal reasons.

“Executives should call each other and say, ‘Hey, so-and-so is moving to your area, and he/she is great as a manager,’ ” Carmichael urges. “Meet with him or her when they get in town.”

Carmichael’s first mentor was the president of the first management company that employed her.

“She not only encouraged me, but she gave me an opportunity she could have taken for herself,” Carmichael recalls. “She often sent me to represent our company at meetings and events with other management company executives. She trusted me to stand in her place and report back what I learned so she could make great decisions for the company. Because of her confidence in me, that exposure gave me skills—and the chance to collaborate with high-level contributors in management—that I wouldn’t have had otherwise.”

Julie Warren is a Virginia-based freelance writer and former editor of Community Manager newsletter. ​



Female leadership within CAI and community associations in general is—and always has been—the norm.


10 Female CAI presidents in 46 years

8 Women on CAI’s 15-member Board of Trustees in 2019

20 Women filling 33 spots in 2019 on CAI’s Community Association Managers Council, Homeowner Leaders Council, and Business Partners Council


1,115 Active female Professional Community Association Manager (PCAM) designees compared to 820 active male PCAM designees

35 Active female and 35 active male Large-Scale Manager (LSM) designees


46% Management company CEOs

72% Portfolio managers

55% Large-scale managers

62% Management company executives

62% On-site managers

—2017 Community Association Manager Compensation and Salary Survey



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