Women are hitting their strides and closing gender gaps in commercial real estate—a traditionally male-dominated business. But, according to a new survey by CREW Network, a 10,000-member business networking organization for advancing women’s achievements in CRE, gaps in the profession remain.
“Commercial real estate is still lagging other industries…,” said CREW Network President Laurie Baker, senior vice president of fund and asset management, Camden Property Trust in Houston.
“What’s attractive about the business is that women can earn more than in some other professions that typically attract women, such as teaching, nursing, etc.,” Baker said. “The 2015 average median salary for women in commercial real estate was $115,000.”
In 2015, the median salary of $115,000 for women, who today make up about 35% of the industry’s workforce, was 23.3% lower than the median $150,000 for men in the profession made the same year, according to the CREW Network’s 2015 Benchmark Study Report: Women in Commercial Real Estate.
Men also outnumber women in industry top executive, or C-suite, positions. While 17% of men surveyed reported holding C-suite positions, 9% of women were in the top-level jobs. But that difference, like other gender gaps in the profession, seems to be narrowing, according to the survey.
Women’s satisfaction in the career rose slightly since the last CREW survey in 2010, with 59% of women and 59% of men, overall, reporting high rates of satisfaction in 2015. Satisfaction increased with years of experience – to 76% of women with 20 years’ experience or more reporting feeling very satisfied.
What women need to know about CRE
Commercial real estate is a profession where the bottom line is always visible, and you have to keep your eye on the bottom line to be successful, according to Baker.
“Commercial real estate can be an aggressive male-dominated culture, which is not for everyone,” Baker said. “But it is a business that forces you to grow, and those who are successful will find that they can be well compensated for the value they create.”
Abbey Ehman, senior associate with the Trammell Crow Company, an independently operated subsidiary of CBRE, Inc., said it’s a wonderful time to be a woman in commercial real estate.
“Make no mistake, it has historically been a generational business and, therefore, suffers from an inherent lack of diversity, but great strides have been made in recent years,” Ehman said. “Trammell Crow Company has an active Women’s Network, and our diversity and inclusion Initiative demonstrates our commitment to cultivating a team that reflects the communities in which we develop.
“Moreover, the industry is beginning to recognize the value of the female perspective. Women have an incredible opportunity to be differentiators in this career field, but with that can come some challenges.”
Ehman, a CREW Network member, said those challenges include a tendency for women to underestimate their ability to operate in multiple dimensions and sometimes move too quickly for their counterparts.
“I struggle with conveying my ideas sequentially, and often want to present the solution,” Ehman said. “Taking the time to walk others through your thought process helps them feel vested in your solution, and can give them confidence that you approached it correctly and saves you time in the long run from having to defend your actions.”
To overcome the challenge, Ehman said she has learned to be more intentional with her communication, and most of all, to listen.
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, agreed that today’s climate is great for women looking to pursue commercial real estate.
“I actively sought a network and a company that embraced the diversity that I could bring to the table,” she said. “As a member of CREW DC, I have the opportunity to collaborate and connect with female leaders within commercial real estate on a regular basis, and that keeps me motivated within my own career.
“Washington REIT has a strong culture of innovation and openness that allows different skill sets to shine within the company,” Little said. “The industry, without a doubt, still has room to improve the environment of commercial real estate for women and minorities, but I find the opportunities are better today.”
Communication is paramount, she added.
“Communication is about understanding your audience. It’s important to gather perspectives, to know the facts and to find the best medium to communicate through,” Little said.
Read more about these professionals, including tips on how to have a successful career in commercial real estate, here.