Women In Commercial Real Estate: Profiles In Success

Picture of a businesswoman and businessman shaking hands

In a traditionally male-dominated industry, the presence of women can too easily be seen as a novelty or an aberration.  Mistreatment and lack of respect has historically been the reflex of most commission-driven business sectors when faced with professional women where few or none were expected before. Thankfully, there are indications that commercial real estate has gotten over any shock at the idea of women as esteemed colleagues and market competitors and is simply getting down to business with all of us seated at the table — like we need to do in the 21st century.

Professionals On The Project

What got me thinking about this is the piece I noticed in the Charlotte Oberver by Kelly Mae Ross profiling three women in commercial real estate.  One is a developer, one a officer space broker and a third a consultant.  What struck me about their stories was the depth of experience and focus on their projects in their entirety, from the perspective of several different skill-sets. If I have a bias about women in business, it’s that time and again I see professional women demonstrate themselves to be excellent multi-taskers – sometimes with an edge over guys in the keep-it-together department – and I thought it was interesting to see this come up in these profiles.

CREW: Commercial Real Estate Women

It’s one thing for the industry to have graduated from a state of shock at seeing women managing commercial property projects, but it’s something else to challenge corporate cultures.  Two things that jumped out at me in the profiles above were the advice by consultant Wendy Field and leasing agent Rhea Greene concerning mentoring.  “Network and find a mentor. “The key is having a good mentor just to get your name out, just to introduce you to new people so if there is a new opportunity, you’re aware of it,” says Greene.

“Bridging the C-Suite Gap” is a mentoring program by Commercial Real Estate Women (CREW) geared to take on the boardroom and have corporate culture catch up with the rest of the world.  Applications for this year are closed, which suggests something about the depth of demand for career development programs focused on women in CRE.

Uneven Progress

NAR’s own research reports the median age in the profession is 57. And men account for 76 percent of the trade group’s commercial members.  Addressing this is the Cleveland-based Real Estate Associate Program profiled here in the Plain Dealer.  The program, started in 1997 provides networking, education and sponsorship opportunities for minorities considering commercial real estate jobs.

Is the industry actively hostile to change or just a creature of habit?  I’d say the later.  But it’s true that there’s still a long way to go until commercial real estate more accurately represents and reflects the wider society it serves.

(Photo: Hawksprairie.org)


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