Are Women Equally Represented In Commercial Real Estate? Survey Says: No
While residential real estate is largely run by women, commercial real estate is still a man’s world.
It’s no secret that the commercial real estate business isn’t exactly flooded with women. Commercial real estate tends to be more of a boys’ club, while residential real estate is dubbed woman-friendly. All manner of broad and sweeping generalizations come to mind as to why this stereotype might have come to be. But is this archaic idea changing with the times?
With the possibility that the US will have its first woman president, these gender stereotypes are changing—but not without a struggle. As it is with elections, it might be considered unwise to neglect half the population. This is true with the commercial real estate industry as well where women are desperately under-represented and under-appreciated as a force with which to be reckoned.
According to Commercial Real Estate Women’s (CREW) most recent Benchmark Study Report: Women in Commercial Real Estate, women are more satisfied and feel more equal to their male counterparts in the workplace than they did a decade ago. It found more women are holding partner and managerial positions, as well as titles of directors and senior vice presidents within the industry. CREW Network CEO Gail S. Ayers says, “We are encouraged by the positive results of this research and the overall satisfaction of women in commercial real estate, but change is not coming fast enough.”
Last year, only 45 percent of commercial real estate positions were held by women. Adelaide Polsinelli, senior managing director at Eastern Consolidated has 30 years of experience as one of New York City’s most high profile real estate brokers. She says, “When I started, it was unusual to see women in the commercial end of the real estate world. It was hard in those days to be taken as seriously as the men in the industry. It has taken me 30 years to become an overnight sensation.”
Maybe commercial real estate isn’t evolving as quickly for women as some would like, but at least it seems to be moving forward, albeit incrementally. According to Arin Reeves,president of consulting firm Nextions, the lack of a female presence in commercial real estate is a perfect storm of no one admitting there’s a problem, along with an unconscious bias and women not speaking up for raises and promotions they are due. Ms. Reeves says, “… in meetings a woman would recommend something and literally a guy would recommend it 10 minutes later, and people would tell him what a great idea even though it’s exactly what she said 10 minutes ago.”
So how can companies and women themselves help change the way they’re perceived in the commercial real estate business? The solution is also multifaceted: encouraging women to not under-value their contributions, to self-advocate, and to not be afraid to compete are all ways to level the playing field of a male dominated industry. Companies can start to train staff to be aware of possible unconscious bias, as well as implement executive mentoring programs so women can share their experience and strength that can lead to promotions. These steps may help bridge the gap of gender parity and create a ‘win/win’: helping women perform to their maximum in the workplace, while simultaneously making the entire company more successful.
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