In a recent article, The Real Estate Blog interviewed women CRE brokers on whether women are making strides in the commercial real estate industry. Here, the same professionals discuss how they make the mostly male-dominated industry work for them.

Abbey Ehrman

Abbey Ehman, senior associate with the Trammell Crow Company, an independently operated subsidiary of CBRE in El Segundo, Calif., believes commercial and residential real estate differ in important ways.

“The life cycle of commercial projects is significantly longer than residential projects, and, therefore, commercial real estate requires even greater market analytics,” she said.

“In general, commercial real estate is strategy-based, as compared to residential real estate, which can be more emotional,” she added. “Knowing when not to make a move in commercial real estate is often what separates the veterans from the novices.”

Ehman said she enjoys her career mostly because of the daily trials and victories, which keep her intrigued and engaged. Commercial real estate is dynamic and challenging — never dull, she said.

Auja Little

“It requires a strong work ethic and a passion for the built environment, and there are a multitude of roles especially suited for women,” Ehman said.

Ehman and Auja Little, a real estate analyst at Washington REIT, who works in asset management and assists in managing the DC office’s portfolio of about 1.6 million square feet, stress the career isn’t for those who prefer to work in a vacuum. Networking and team-building are integral to success.

“Before entering the industry, identify a strong network of male and female role models, of all professional levels,” Ehman said. “Build a team that is rooting for your success and that you can ask any question, no matter how mundane. Finally, spend time learning. Take your time to forge the right path in order to build a solid foundation for a fruitful career.”

“Nothing has been more valuable to me than the network I’ve developed over the years. A strong network will help you accelerate your career and may open doors you might not be able to open yourself.” — Auja Little, Washington REIT


Laurie Baker

Little said she loves commercial real estate because it innately encourages creativity in deal-making and innovation in management and development.

“Our environment, properties and peers are constantly changing, and it creates a very interesting arena to work in,” Little said. “Commercial real estate is such a broad field, and I appreciate being able to touch so many other industries based on our work. My career can go down many different paths, and, with commercial real estate, the options are vast.”

Little’s words of career wisdom include building a network.

“Nothing has been more valuable to me than the network I’ve developed over the years. A strong network will help you accelerate your career and may open doors you might not be able to open yourself,” she said.

Also important is finding a mentor, according to Little.

“My first mentor pushed me to take risks and seek out opportunities I wouldn’t have considered on my own, and that made a difference in the start of my career,” Little said.

Gail A. Ayers

CREW Network is a 10,000-member business networking organization for advancing women’s achievements in CRE. CREW Network President Laurie Baker, senior vice president of fund and asset management, Camden Property Trust in Houston, said the commercial real estate industry is making great progress with building workforce teams that reflect diversity found in their customer bases.

“Women have extraordinary skills in sustaining long-term relationships,” Baker said. “They have great follow-through and are detail oriented, conveying confidence to the client that their business interests will be cared for and given the attention required.”

Survey results from CREW Network’s 2015 Benchmark Study Report: Women in Commercial Real Estate are encouraging for women in commercial real estate, according to CREW Network CEO Gail S. Ayers, PhD.

“… but change is not coming fast enough. We are looking to industry leaders to take action, and CREW Network remains committed to supporting the industry as it makes this change,” she said.