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CRE Needs Women Now More Than Ever

September 3, 2020

Commercial Real Estate (CRE) is widely male-dominated. While women are the majority of residential real estate agents (62% as estimated by the National Association of Realtors), men make up 65% of the CRE workforce in the United States and 63% of the workforce in Canada. Beyond these types of numbers, the pay gap between men and women in CRE in the UK is a staggering 27% and only 20% of CRE women in the US aspire to reach C-Suite positions while 40% of CRE men do.


It’s time for a change and it needs to start at the top. 

The women’s “glass ceiling,” a metaphor used to represent an invisible barrier that keeps a given demographic from rising beyond a certain level, was coined in the 1970s. Management consultant, Marilyn Loden, who created the term after she witnessed female panelists focusing on the deficiencies in women’s socialization, self-deprecating behavior, and poor self-image first used the glass ceiling phrase to pivot the perspectives of barriers from personal to those of a cultural basis. 

Almost 50 years later, there have been advances towards more equality for women in the workforce and, fortunately, commercial real estate is no exception. While women are gaining positions within the industry, there is still a large discrepancy between the percentage of women in the general workforce vs women in top management positions. CREW (CRE Women) Network was established in 1989 and today boasts over 12,000 members with a goal in advancing women in CRE through business networking, leadership development, industry research and career outreach.


The data supports women holding quantifiably more and more substantial positions in CRE but what will that look like in the years to come? What has COVID-19 done to the trend?

A major change due to COVID-19 in commercial real estate is the reduction, if not elimination, of the taboo feelings of working remotely or from home. As people begin to return to offices and are met with heightened security and safety measures, as well as rules for operating shared spaces like elevators, the appeal and acceptance of working remotely is rapidly increasing. The pandemic has proven that workforces can work remotely with high productivity and while being more cost-effective. With both men and women working from home, the bias against women decreases. 

What is it like to be a woman in CRE? There can be challenges when being the only woman in a room, but there can also be advantages. Diane Danielson, former Chief Operating Officer of SVN and now Founder of Future Proof Research Collaborative, said that being the only woman in the room made her stand out. 

“For women advancing in CRE, find your allies, mentors, sponsors and friends in the industry. Build your tribe and make it diverse in all facets. We’ve seen more progress for women in the industry in the last 5 years than in the 20 years before that - keep that going,” explained Diane Danielson. “We need to do more for people of color, too.”

The unique characteristics of women are even more necessary during the post-pandemic time in commercial real estate. Women tend to be better facilitators of innovation and with higher levels of empathy, women can be more understanding to the needs of clients and building relationships while encouraging new technology product designs that are intuitive to use. Women are also largely better with collaboration and listening. With career opportunities in CRE including architecture, engineering, construction, asset management, project management, marketing, finance, investment banking, and more, women’s unique perspective and skillset can be utilized across many sectors under the CRE umbrella.

Women should not try to hide their “female qualities” to advance and lead in the CRE space. According to Yulia Yaani, Founder and CEO of RealAtom, a technology company modernizing the commercial real estate lending industry, women need to embrace these unique qualities, not only bringing them to the table but use them to find and seize opportunities to disrupt and innovate.

As women’s strengths are recognized as unique assets in the CRE space, Marilyn Loden continued, “Rather than accept the glass ceiling as inevitable, it is time for institutions to acknowledge that the embedded biases in their cultures predisposing many men for career success while diminishing the strengths, styles and capabilities of the majority of talented women must be eradicated.”

The Drastic Summit acknowledges the lack of equality and how the CRE space has suffered from the lack of women in top positions. We know a pre-requisite for gender equality in all industries is gender equality in leadership. To support this, we promise to support and promote women in CRE leadership through equality in our speakers; 50/50 men and women. Stay tuned to our speaker announcements for both the in-person event in Toronto, March 2021 and our virtual October 2020 event “Built World Post Covid19” which will focus on the effects of the pandemic on real estate tech.

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