Rose Caiola
Bettina Equities

Rose Caiola is Principal at Bettina Equities, a leading real estate developer and manager in New York City with more than 1.4 million square feet of commercial and residential real estate. A Bronx native, Rose is also a philanthropist and activist for improving communities, including serving as Chairwoman of the Give to Give Foundation and is an active Board member for American Heart Association, and more.

NY Caiolo

Question: What led you to a career in the construction industry?

My parents both immigrated to the US from Italy and wanted me to develop a strong work ethic, so when I was growing up, there were no summer camps for me! When I was thirteen, my father, Sal Caiola, gave me my first job as a file clerk in his growing construction and real-estate business. I worked there every summer and during most school holidays. When I graduated from college, I was on my way to a promising career in the fashion industry, but it didn’t spark my passion, so instead I took a job as an assistant bookkeeper at my dad’s company – Bettina Equities – with the understanding there would be no special treatment. Over the years my father challenged me by moving me to different positions, exposing me to every area of the business.

This gave me opportunities to discover and tap into my unique talents and energy. I became known as the person who could succeed in getting approvals even when expeditors and architects failed. It was such a rewarding feeling to walk out of the NYC Department of Buildings with a difficult approval in hand! Eventually I participated in all the company negotiations—with subcontractors, lawyers, investors, and banks. Now, I’m a principal of Bettina Equities Management and have contributed to the growth of our company—we now own and manage over 1,400,000 square feet of commercial and residential real estate. I’m so proud that we’re known for the quality of our properties and management. My parents planted the seeds of hard work, dedication, and excellence and these blossomed into a respected and flourishing business.

Question: How has the context of being a woman in the industry changed since you started your career?

It has always been a good industry for confident and determined women, but not without challenges. I think many of us faced these over the years—things like being the only woman on a construction site, getting talked down to and even harassed, or not having our abilities and hard work recognized—especially in the 1980s and 1990s when there were fewer of us in leadership positions and lower expectations for men.

Seeing and meeting other successful women was a huge source of inspiration for me—they modeled how my passion and intelligence could help me overcome most obstacles. Barbara Corcoran’s accomplishments as a real estate entrepreneur were especially motivating, and I enthusiastically followed her career.

Nowadays, there are more women in our industry, and a greater public movement toward holding men accountable for unacceptable behavior—and that makes a big difference. I hope up-and-coming female entrepreneurs and leaders are finding their own mentors and inspiration to thrive because ensuring that everyone—male or female—has an equal opportunity for success in this dynamic field is the right thing to do and great for business!

How do you leverage your position to help recruit and retain more women in the industry?

To be honest, during the early years of my career I was primarily focused on my success and tried to overcome discrimination by being too good at my job to be ignored. Later, as I grew confident in my leadership skills and became a mother, I discovered the power of mindfulness—present-focused living that allows us to enjoy and be fulfilled by each experience without being reactive. Making a conscious effort to work and live mindfully led me to pay attention to the circumstances of all women in our industry.

I came to see that so often, especially in response to discrimination, women build a façade and erect barriers around relationships with other people in the workplace. While I understand this is an act of self-protection, it ultimately limits potential. My own experience is that good personal relationships will strengthen business partnerships, but sometimes women need other women to mentor, encourage, and support them in this. As my confidence and determination to help other women has grown, with this understanding in mind I’ve increasingly sought out and hired women professionals in our industry and in any situation.

What improvements can the industry make to help women succeed in the construction business?

Mentorship is key. I’ve noticed more women in the field than ever before—from electricians, utility workers, and safety managers on construction sites to engineers and architects. I’m thrilled about this because, as they say, “You can’t be what you can’t see.” Lifting up, normalizing, and even celebrating women in these roles, and especially in positions of leadership, is the best way to help us all continue to succeed and flourish.

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