More Women Are Now Entering Field of Commercial
DENVER BUSINESS JOURNAL – July 28, 2006
While different in many ways from residential real estate, commercial
real estate distinguishes itself primarily by both the slow progress
of women entering into the profession and the number of women
who successfully remain in the industry. There are many disciplines
within commercial real estate that offer opportunities to women:
banking, mortgage/title work, real estate law, architecture/design,
asset management, development and brokerage. Although it has
been encouraging to see that this side of the industry has opened
up for women’s participation, there barriers still remain,
especially for the younger women who look for satisfaction from
doing business in this arena.
Commercial Real Estate Women (CREW Network) is a North American
Association of more than 6500 commercial real estate industry professionals.
The goal of this organization is to advance the success of women
in commercial real estate. It is a strong and successful national
network of professional individuals who benefit from the connection
of a shared desire for doing business together and being successful.
In 2005 CREW Network released the first comprehensive look at women
in the industry through a study which was conducted by surveying
over 1,834 online participants with follow up calls to 250 individuals.
The survey included both men (36%) and women (64%).
The survey focuses on four disciplines: Asset/Property Management,
Financial Services, Development and Brokerage. There are several
areas of discussion covered in the survey. However, for purposes
of this article, the areas of interest to be emphasized are the
number of women in the industry, compensation, title/position and
The survey finds that “while the number of women professionals
in the industry is increasing, men earn more than women across
the board at comparable levels of experience and age, and across
industry specializations.” The survey found that in the past
5 years, the number of women professionals in the industry has
increased from 32% to 36%. However, while more than half of the
individuals who specialize in asset/property management are women,
only 25% of the individuals working in brokerage are women. In
the financial services, the number of women has increased 7% in
the past five years.
Commercial real estate can be a high paying profession, often
based upon bonus and/or full commission compensation. According
to the survey, the earnings of 1/3 of the respondents, both men
and women, were over $150,000 per year. Of that group 58% of the
men claimed income of $150,000 or higher while only 24% of the
women earned the same. This appears to be true regardless of age
When commissions are the sole source of compensation, the survey
found that men apparently target and hold these positions more
than women. This is especially true in brokerage sales and leasing.
Locally, women articulate being risk averse and needing a sense
of security especially as they become older and have more personal
One young CU graduate who wanted to enter brokerage was advised
to put her financial background to use in a larger corporate environment
specializing in asset management and in-house tenant representation
based on salary. She was counseled that her chances of success
in brokerage as a female would increase if she were to establish
herself first with a credible resume. The majority of young males
entering brokerage, while having the same financial background,
enter the field directly.
A reasonable conclusion to draw might be that men are mentored
more successfully by their peers and are not allowed to fail in
these types of environments. However it might also be true that
simply having more men in the room results in more men being mentored.
A few local female professionals in the field do speak of finding
a mentor and more often than not that person is a man. Especially
in brokerage there are very few women available to mentor younger
According to the survey, while 35% of the respondents reported
being in a senior level position, particularly in Asset and Property
Management, a greater percentage of women than men (21% to 8%)
hold mid-level positions. Men on the other hand are 3 times more
likely to hold positions of President/CEO/CFO. The survey does
indicate that beyond 10 years of experience both men and woman
share the same level of Vice President. However the survey shows
that this is the ceiling for the majority women in all disciplines.
It was particularly interesting to note that the number of men
remaining in the industry over the age of 50 with over 20 years
of experience is higher (76%) than women of the same age and experience
(53%). Across the board in every discipline the number of women
participating in the industry drops by the 20th year in the business
by almost 50%. While there is not a reason given for this statistic
it might be reasonable to
conclude that there is greater job satisfaction for men due to
position held and the resultant compensation. Or, conversely, women
may have another means of support or may simply have “burned
out” due to maintaining the balance of job and family.
When it comes to achievement in terms of satisfaction and success,
in the majority of the fields, both genders believe that they are
satisfied and successful. However there is greater disparity within
the brokerage and asset/property management fields. In brokerage
only 56% of the women felt successful while a whopping 72% of men
felt that they had achieved success. There was a smaller disparity
in asset/property management with 68% of the women feeling successful
compared to 76% of the men. The disparity regarding satisfaction
with the job is equally maintained in brokerage as well as asset/property
management. According to the survey this disparity in both of these
fields decreased with years of experience.
In conclusion, unlike other career treks which place a clearer
emphasis on recruiting women, commercial real estate isn’t
widely regarded as being proactive in attracting more females
to it ranks. The track record also indicates that in certain
fields, ie brokerage and asset/property management, there is
not an active intent to retain those females that are allowed
entry. However, if persistent, women can attain seniority through
years of service and enjoy a certain feeling of success and achievement.
For its part CREW nationally has developed a program called CREW
Careers which aims to reach young women from the age of seven up
through their high school years and introduce them to opportunities
in the commercial real estate industry.
CREW Network engaged the services of Knowledge Systems & Research
to conduct this survey. CREW will hold its national convention
in Denver in 2007. We look forward to an update at the convention
on how women are tracking in this industry.
Paulette Wray, Principal of Wray & Associates, a Denver-based
tenant/buyer representation firm, has 22 years of commercial real