Leonie Wilkinson is a Senior Vice President at Brookfield Asset Management
  • Previously, Ms Wilkinson worked for Stockland and Macquarie
  • She takes on an array of public speaking opportunities and presents on property panels
  • She also mentors sportswomen transitioning into the business world

Having held leadership positions in big-name companies from Stockland and Macquarie to La Salle and now Brookfield, Leonie Wilkinson has built an impressive career to her name. Now she is doing what she can to inspire the next generation of women to pursue their dream careers in business.

Senior Vice President at Brookfield Asset Management, Leonie Wilkinson spoke to The Property Tribune about her life, career and passion for building up other women.

Ms Wilkinson has her roots in Gerringong, a small surfing town on the NSW coast but after graduating from Wollongong University with first-class honours in Maths and Finance, she moved up to the big smokes. While Gerringong was a beautiful place to grow up, she always knew she would have to move to Sydney to chase the career she wanted.

Falling into property

Ms Wilkinson said she fell into working in the property industry. She started her first job where she fell in love with financial modelling, a passion that lead her to a role at Macquarie. There she was placed on the real estate team.

“A lot of the women working in real estate at that time had a similar path to me, often coming into property in from another direction rather than doing a straight property degree. That’s changed now and a lot more women are doing property degrees, which is wonderful.”

“I started working in real estate around 20 years ago and I haven’t stopped. I love it because it has a physical asset that you can see and touch and feel. It helps a lot when you’re trying to figure out how to drive investment performance for the asset. There is nothing more beneficial than looking at the asset,” Ms Wilkinson explained.

No two days are the same for Leonie in her current role at Brookfield.

She could be talking to clients about global economic trends or analysing investment opportunities in the morning then examining a property or working with the broader team to improve process efficiencies in the afternoon.

“You can’t be what you can’t see.”

Leonie entered the property industry during a time when women were in the minority and grossly underrepresented in leadership roles.

Although it didn’t bother her at the time, Leonie did not have an informal network of peers around her with whom she could bounce ideas off and talk about progressing their careers.

“I was really focused on doing my work and relying on the quality of that work to get me to the next level of my career, which it did and that is actually good,” she said.

“At the time I didn’t feel that there was any problem.

In retrospect, would have been lovely to have had more females around working in the industry, just to be able to see them and realize that I can do it.”

Now she uses her abundance of knowledge and experience to build up women. She works with the University of Wollongong inspiring girls to consider STEM pathways, she takes on an array of public speaking opportunities and presents on property panels.

“I took [public speaking] on because I wanted to show other women coming through the industry that women existed in the industry. We’re up there. We’re doing it,” she said.

While there is still a way to go, a lot has improved since Leonie first started talking on panels close to a decade ago. 

Through The Panel Pledge, Ms Wilkinson said she found a lot of support from men in the industry. Championed by the Property Council of Australia, the pledge involves men making a commitment to only participate in a panel or forum where women are represented. 

She is motivated to share her perspective as a woman in the industry because in her words, “you can’t be what you can’t see”.

Mentoring sportswomen

In conjunction with the role at Brookfield, Leonie works at the Minerva Network where she mentors retiring sportswomen, helping them to enter business.

Taking its name from the goddess of wisdom, war, art, schools, justice and commerce, the Minerva Network was started by a group of Australian businesswomen.

They observed that a lot of professional male sportspeople finished their sporting career and then moved into professional roles in business, but for women, there was not necessarily the same smooth pathway into a career after sport.

“I think quite rightly business recognizes a lot of the attributes that professional sportspeople are tremendously important for business and leadership,” Ms Wilkinson explained.

“Things like resilience and determination, goal setting are all really important business skills.”

Being a lover of sports and an admirer of sportswomen herself, the role at Minerva is a natural fit. The organisation provides networking and mentoring opportunities to professional sportswomen who are considering what their careers will look like post-sport.

Minerva’s slogan is, ‘Women supporting women in the business of sport’. Image – Facebook

She hopes her roles in the public eye are helping to set a precedent for women coming into the industry so that they can be confident to aim high in their careers.

“Hopefully this next generation of women coming through are going to do so much more than we have. I’m really excited to watch what they do.”

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