Written by eBella Magazine Staff Writers
As a young girl, Katie Berkey grew up in the background of public hearings and planning committees in rural, Redding, Connecticut.
She and her sister were deeply influenced by their parents, who were very involved in local politics. They often spoke about real estate development issues related to historic preservation and the environment. “That’s where my love of land use really started,” Berkey says.
Berkey is a shareholder and certified land planner at Becker & Poliakoff, with board accreditations in city, county and local government law.
Her work underscores the need to balance responsible development that protects limited natural and historic resources with a landowner’s protected property rights, Berkey explains. It’s particularly relevant in Southwest Florida, where development is brisk and the environment is at risk.
“The ecosystem here is unique, unlike other places,” Berkey says. “If it is tampered with too much, it can’t be recreated. But we do have a growing population and the environment here is an economic driver that draws people in… It’s a careful balance.”
As the community grows, Berkey explains, it’s important to support the existing development in the urban core, adding density to downtown areas, rather than creating new developments that encroach on natural land.
Berkey’s expertise in responsible growth extends beyond a career. She serves at the executive level with nonprofits Keep Lee County Beautiful and Urban Land Institute (ULI), a global organization that promotes thriving communities around the world.
She facilitates service projects, such as planting sea oats along the coastline for greater storm resilience and repainting historic buildings at Koreshan State Park.
Through ULI, Berkey acts on another of her passions as co-chair of its Women’s Leadership Initiative. Though women have made great strides toward equality in the legal, business and real estate sectors, initiatives to promote the leadership status and visibility of women helps ensure that upward mobility doesn’t falter, Berkey says.
As a proud mother to two young boys, with a third child on the way, she experienced firsthand that motherhood could thwart professional development if not supported. Berkey volunteers with MothersEsquire, an organization that supports upwardly mobile lawyers who are also mothers — something that can put them at risk of being pushed off the corporate ladder. Establishing important measures (“breast practices,” MothersEsquire calls it) can help ensure female lawyers with children are able to maintain their seat at the table.
Consider the mom-lawyer who misses part of a professional conference because she has to pump breast milk — or the one who feels she has to sit the conference out because there isn’t a suitable place to pump — that woman is missing out on important material and growth opportunities.
“As a means of helping the advancement of women, that’s a huge component,” Berkey says. “It seems like a small blip in a women’s career, but if you have multiple children, you are breastfeeding a year a piece. You don’t want to miss out on those professional advancement opportunities.”
Part of that could involve these women being involved in conference planning, so their needs can be accommodated and ways to have access to the material they might miss are established.
More than ever, women are choosing careers in law. In fact, studies show that women now outnumber men in the country’s top law schools. But a disproportionate number of women achieve top ranks of law firms as equity partners. Berkey proposes that issues such as maternity leave, breastfeeding accommodations and a corporate gender bias could be part of the cause.
“We could be doing more to capture that talent going forward,” Berkey says, by supporting new mothers and encouraging women’s promotion and visibility so that other women see it is possible to be both a mother and a partner.
Additionally, Berkey says society’s outdated concepts of women’s roles need to change — and it often starts at home.
“I think my greatest legacy will be raising my two boys to not only be respectful of women, but to also be a supporter of and advocate for women. Women can do so much, but we need the collaboration of everyone to get fully across the finish line of equality.”
To read the original eBella Magazine article, please click here.
Katie Berkey is a Board Certified Specialist in City, County and Local Government Law and a certified Professional Planner by the American Institute of Certified Planners; she is also a shareholder with Becker & Poliakoff. Katie represents a variety of clients in zoning, land use, and planning matters. To learn more, please click here.