Leatrice Gochberg and Debra Dobkins share stories.

First GOLD Program speaker shares experiences in male-dominated career

Oct 3, 2019
Kathryne Davis


Leatrice GochbergLeatrice Eckber Gochberg spoke about her struggles trying to break into the real estate world as a woman in the 1960s on Wednesday, Sept. 25, in front of a full Hosch Theatre.

The speaker series is part of The Women’s College’s GOLD Program, which focuses on gender in its first year. As the students move on through college, they will spend ensuing years focusing on ownership, leadership and diversity, and other speakers will come in and talk about their experiences.

“Our focus has been envisioning the future while also honoring our legacy of 141 years of educating amazing and smart women,” said Debra Dobkins, dean of The Women’s College. “Our theme for this year is celebrating sisterhood and empowering women to take on the world. And you are the women who are going to do that. We need you to take on the world and run the world.”

Gochberg had to fight her way through the male-dominated world of real estate. While she found incredible success in real estate, Gochberg originally started out wanting to become an opera singer after studying music for most of her life. To help with her career goals, Gochberg earned her bachelor’s degrees in music and vocal performance from The Eastman School of Music of the University of Rochester and was awarded a master’s degree in music from the Manhattan School of Music.

She was offered a contract with the Metropolitan Opera, but was unable to continue with her career due to asthma. With her husband, Thomas, finishing his education at Columbia University, the couple decided Leatrice would have to find a new job.

“I set out to find something interesting and challenging as a new profession,” Gochberg said. “I was devastated as I began to look. In 1965, no one wanted to interview a woman as an intern, as an executive trainee or in a slot for professional employment. I was told time and time again that these slots were not for women.”

Students applaud at speaker series.Although she had little knowledge about real estate at first, she was able to get a job as an assistant at a company. Along with her husband, Gochberg studied everything she could about the world of real estate and started making her way up the chain. She wanted to take the salesman exam, but was having trouble as a woman getting sponsored.

After she was finally able to take the exam, Gochberg began meeting with clients and became the first woman broker dealing with large commercial real estate financing in the United States. As her career continued, Gochberg worked on Wall Street and became president of Smith, Barney Realty Services Inc. She also served as the only female member of the President’s Advisory Commission on Management Improvement, which was a 10-member commission that advised President Richard Nixon. Her son and daughter are also in the real estate business.

“A few things to remember,” Gochberg said. “Women support other women. Look around where you’re sitting and realize the women you are sitting next to may be the same women you’re sitting next to in 20 or 30 years. You will be mentored by many men, but women will be there to support you and help you move up the ladder.”

During the event, Student Government Association president and mass communication major Cierra Franklin thanked Gochberg for sharing her knowledge and expertise.

“Because of women like you, young women like myself can become and evolve into our very best selves,” Franklin said.