How Do You Empower Women In Commercial Real Estate?
How do we empower women in commercial real estate? How do we help elevate women, support working mothers and encourage female entrepreneurialism in this industry? I was recently discussing these issues on a panel at Harvard’s Real Estate Weekend. Many industries face these questions, and there is no perfect answer. When I launched KIG CRE, I set out to create a more dynamic, insightful and transparent multifamily brokerage firm.
Having been in the real estate industry for decades, I can empathize with various stories coming out, such as a recent editorial about real estate’s own #MeToo movement. I believe if we focus on female representation in the industry, employ practices that support working mothers and encourage entrepreneurship, the industry will evolve and look less like a grown-up fraternity.
Only 9% of commercial real estate C-suite positions are held by women. While this indicates some progress, there is a lot more room for improvement. NASDAQ recently signed the Parity Pledge to demonstrate a commitment to interview a minimum of one qualified female candidate for all open position at the VP level and above. This is a practice the commercial real estate industry can easily adopt to help increase female representation.
A study released by CREW Network found the percentage of women in brokerage and finance declined between 2006 and 2015, from 39% to 29% in brokerage and from 44% to 42% in finance. However, asset management and development saw increases in the number of women working in each field. Development is particularly interesting, seeing an increase from 23% to 38%. An increase in women in development truly means that the industry is changing. The study also notes that the wage gap is shrinking. But it is still significant, with the median total annual compensation including bonuses, compensation and profit sharing having a 23% gap between men and women.
Supporting Working Mothers
Offering maternity and even paternity leave is just the first step to supporting working mothers. Firms would be wise to consider flexibility as the key ingredient to supporting working parents. Employers should be exploring what they can do to support moms at the office and ask these women personally and directly. Some ideas to consider include flexible work hours, offering childcare in the office, the ability to bring the child to work and keeping open lines of communication for those moments when life happens. Working hours and babies’ schedules really do not align.
Consider offering flexible start and end times as well as work from home flexibility. One of our employees works 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. in order to best fit with her child’s schedule. We also welcome babies one day a week into the office. Now, we are a small firm, and I am the Principal, so this may not be as easy to implement at larger firms, but it’s this line of thought and dialogue with new mothers that supports them returning to work.
Startups with female founders are noted by one small study as growing faster than ones led by men, and only 14% of startups are founded by women. Let’s encourage young professional women to go for it — in any industry and especially in commercial real estate. This industry is a known laggard in desperate need of innovations. I’ve seen many women make calculated and delayed starts to their entrepreneurial endeavors. With men, however, I can say I’ve seen more just jump right in and go.
Personally, I think there is less to lose and infinitely more to gain as a young founder. Even if the startup fails, the experience is valuable. Corporations should embrace founders who’ve decided to move on from their startup. These are some of the most hardworking people out there.
There are plenty of ways for us to empower women in commercial real estate. Female representation in the industry, employing practices that support working mothers and encouraging entrepreneurship are just the tip of the iceberg to creating a better workplace and work life for today’s professional women.