Women in Economics club hosts Sarah Ponitus ’04 for discussion


Laura Pontius ’04 presents in front of staff and students in the Karp lecture theater. Image by John Jiang.

Daniel Wilcox, News Editor

On Thursday, May 16 the Women in Economics and Economics Department held a session with the Senior Vice President and Global Head of Real Estate Partnerships of WeWork Sarah Pontius ’04.

The talk, titled the “Future of Work Space,” gave students and staff the opportunity to hear about what Pontius had done both during her time at Union as well as afterwards in the world of work to get to the position that she has reached today. Economics Department Chair Mehmet Fuat Sener opened the session with an introduction to Pontius and his fond memories of the time that she spent at Union.

Pontius began speaking about her time at Union, saying that she had at first had no idea what she wanted to pursue, but was certain that after graduating she was eager to work in New York City, a goal that she would achieve. Although she first believed that she would be a psychology major, after a while she realised that she was enjoying the economics courses that she was taking and chose economics as her major. Regarding her experience at Union, she was excited by the variety of majors offered at the college, as well the cultural immersion and diversity that she had come into contact with.

Pontius continued her talk about what she formative things that she had done during her later years at Union.

She worked at an internship in a legal department, cementing her belief that she did not want to become a lawyer. She believes that internships are great for students to learn about fields they do not want to work in.

During her junior year she traveled abroad to London, an experience that she enjoyed and opened her eyes to the world wide opportunities available to her.

This also led on to her explaining how she was able to get involved in the company that she would end up working in for ten years, Brookfield. After hearing a talk from a member of the class of ’81 she asked whether she would be able to become an intern at their company, however due to the small size of the company there was no internship program.

Despite this the company was interested in having her join as an intern. Pontius was able to attend an interview in New York City and was able to meet the CEO of the company, something that she hadn’t expected. With her being successful in gaining the internship, Pontius advised students to use that time to learn everything they can about the job, but to also prove their worth by using their initiative. Her senior year was spent working on her thesis and looking for employment after graduation. She had received offers from her former employer Brookfield as well as big banks, but sided with Brookfield despite a smaller paycheck.

Pontius explained that much of the reason for her success has been due to the long hours and hard work she put into her job and that she enjoyed what she was doing. She was able to move around during her ten-year employment at Brookfield, working in cities such as Sydney and London. She carried on by telling the students that she was not always successful, but had learned to use her failures as learning opportunities for the future.

A piece of advice give was to “learn about the world” while you are young. Despite Brookfield being a small company when she started, by the time she left it was one of the biggest real estate companies in New York City. With her carrying on her career in real estate, she has now begun her current job at WeWork.

WeWork company was founded in 2010 and created an open, collaborative space for employees to work. Pontius explained that although hesitant at first, she is now extremely excited that she is working in such a vibrant environment.

Being asked about the challenges that women face when in the workforce, Pontius explained that she believes that many women find it hard to balance a personal and professional life with many women dropping out to start a family and then finding it hard to reenter at a later point. Pontius said that she believes everyone should be supported to join or rejoin the workforce and that employers should be accomodating of the modern lifestyle that may not necessarily mean a lower quality of work.