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Celebrating Women’s History Month


The Influence & Inspiration Behind the Women of CoreNet Philadelphia

CoreNet Philadelphia celebrates Women’s History Month, recognizing the great contributions women have made to culture and society. We are grateful to the many women who dedicate their time and expertise to moving CoreNet Philadelphia’s mission forward and decided to ask three of these dynamic individuals about the inspiration behind their passion. We were both moved and inspired by their responses… Enjoy!! 

LeaAnn Molineux 

CoreNet Philadelphia Chapter President

What are you inspired by, either personally or professionally? 

I draw inspiration personally and professionally from people who are of service to others.  These moments of service can be great or small, and include:

§  My CoreNet Board peers and their commitment to moving our industry forward by educating, developing talent, and striving for equity.

§  Colleagues who offer coaching to support a team member in a moment of informal mentorship.

§  Female business owners and entrepreneurs who persist despite disproportionate social and capital barriers.

§  Young leaders who are Global change makers like Greta Thunberg and Malala Yousafzai who stand on their principles despite the threat of enormous personal peril.

Who is an influential woman in your life and what have you learned from her?

This is an interesting question, as lately I’ve been reflecting on experiences from childhood that shaped my perspective and who I am.  Two examples of such inspiration include:

§  Marlo Thomas who gave girls like me in the 1970s, the gift of Free to be You and Me that provided messages of equality, strength, and gender neutrality.  When you are a three-year-old girl, the importance of hearing its major message, that boys and girls can achieve equally, can’t be overstated.

§  Geraldine Ferraro, in the 1980s, ran as the first female on a major U.S. ticket to the Vice President of the United States.  Around age 10 or so, I went to hear her speak at a local middle school in my neighborhood.  It was not about politics, but the excitement of seeing her on the campaign trail was palpable and signaled to me that more was possible.

What advice do you have for women in the commercial real estate/AEC industry?

Keep in mind one word – GRIT! 

The CRE/AEC world offers endless opportunities, and that’s the amazing thing about this field!  There is much to learn, there are hurdles to face, and all careers are a marathon, not a sprint. 

Stick with it – this is grit!  Learn as much as you can, stay humble, make meaningful connections in your network, work hard, and never give up.  The reward will be worth it!

What excites you most about working in real estate right now?

Real estate has been my passion for nearly thirty years.  I have enjoyed transactions, design, construction, and strategy among my experiences.  Besides the joy of learning cross disciplines, which makes every day in real estate a joy, I love the fact that the business has become more people-centric and sustainably focused, and the built environment is no longer just a space but an inspiration that drives innovation.

Debra Breslow

Principle, Corporate Sector Lead, Meyer Design

CoreNet DEI Global Ambassador


Who is an influential woman in your life and what have you learned from her? 

My Mother. She was a refugee on board the SS St. Louis in 1939 and the strongest woman I know. As a successful businesswoman, community leader, and social activist, she taught me to stand up for what is right, even if everyone else is silent.


What excites you most about working in real estate right now? 

Innovation. This is an unprecedented time in history and the real estate industry. We are reimagining how we live and work, and as a creative, it's fascinating. 

Annie Portner, NCIDQ

Gensler, Interior Designer

CoreNet Young Leaders Vice Chair

What are you inspired by, either personally or professionally?

I am constantly inspired by art, design & artists. I make an effort to visit art museums wherever I travel, attend artist pop-ups, and learn more about the art community. Although I am diving deeper into the business side of design & business development, I like to remind myself why I first got into this industry in the first place, for the love of art & design. I also make a point to create & do more hands-on art too! Whether it be darkroom photography or figure sculpture, I find time away from Revit & the computer refills my cup.

Who is an influential woman in your life and what have you learned from her?

No one compares to the influence my Mom has had on me. Seeing my Mom balance a career with being an amazing mother has been inspiring. She has given me the reassurance that I can one day do it all too. She leads by example, teaching me how to interview, negotiate my salary, ask for what I want, and public speak in the work world. PLUS, how to garden and bake too.

What advice do you have for women in the commercial real estate/AEC industry?

Take up space. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, show up to events where you don’t know anyone, and make your voice heard. Being the only, or one of very few, women in a room can be intimidating, but it can also be a superpower. I also think being proactive has been my #1 attribute in life. If you are always thinking ahead and knowing what the next step could be, people appreciate that. This applies to the design process, a construction timeline, or a client pitch. Ask questions, provide ideas, and be open to possibilities.

What excites you most about working in real estate right now?

As a predominately workplace designer, the opportunity to positively impact the space most people spend 8+ hours a day in is exciting. Workplace has gone through an identity crisis the past few years post-pandemic, but it’s not going anywhere. The opportunity to develop the next big workplace solution with our clients is inspiring.