Women in Commercial Real Estate List Work Flexibility and Pay Transparency as Top Priorities


During her 36 years with PICOR Commercial Real Estate Services in Tucson, Arizona, Barbi Reuter rose through the ranks to become CEO and Chair of the Board. Her achievements place her in a small minority: a prominent group says that about 1 in 10 of all leadership positions in her industry are held by women.

“While I’ve seen progress for women since I started in 1986, it hasn’t been enough or hasn’t come quickly enough,” said Reuter, who is also president of the Commercial Real Estate Women Network, a national organization committed to industry diversification. “Little has changed in terms of industry representation, pay equity or diversity in leadership positions over the past 15 years.”

CREW’s latest annual report on women in real estate reveals how women’s perspectives on a male-dominated field have changed during the pandemic. The report surveyed 1,228 professionals, 96% of whom were women, across 10 commercial real estate sectors in North America, Europe and India. Respondents also said they are increasingly interested in hybrid work opportunities and pay transparency.

The report found that 29% of respondents left their jobs as a result of the pandemic, an increase of 5 points from 2021. Although the CREW report did not break down the percentage of men leaving their jobs in the commercial real estate, the number of women aged 25 and over in the overall workforce has fallen by 1.3% since the third quarter of 2019, slightly more than the decline of 1, 1% for men, according to data from the Pew Research Center.

The CREW report is an important indicator of how women feel about working in real estate, a field that has historically trailed others in diversity. Other studies from research groups such as McKinsey and Gallup have shown that diversity ultimately translates into higher profit margins for companies because it improves customer focus, employee satisfaction and long-term decision making. term. Women make up just under half of the US workforce, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, but hold less than 37% of commercial real estate positions. This figure has remained largely unchanged since 2005, when CREW began tracking it.

The demands of women in commercial real estate have changed during the pandemic, which could influence the industry in the long run. CREW found in its 2022 report that 52% of respondents would accept lower pay at a job if it guaranteed remote or hybrid work options. And 64% said they would consider a new position if their current employer required them to return to the office full-time.

A separate Axios study found that women are more likely than men to prefer remote working, citing flexibility in hours and not having to dress for the office. CREW’s findings show that women not only prefer flexible working, but are willing to make sacrifices for it, which could put pressure on employers to meet their demands.

“Commercial real estate, in my opinion, has always been quite flexible,” said Casey Flannery, senior partner of Foundry Commercial’s industrial team in Nashville, Tennessee. “But there’s another aspect, where women kind of need to prove themselves a bit more, so maybe they’re not taking the flexibility that they would need.”

According to Flannery, 94% of CREW respondents said they thought asking for more flexible work arrangements would negatively affect their chances of getting a promotion.

From his own experience, Flannery had to work hard to prove himself after a promotion to the brokerage team. Originally from Tennessee, she began her real estate career in 2015 as an intern at Cushman & Wakefield while working two other jobs and studying for her master’s degree at the University of Tennessee. She worked as an administrative coordinator for two years before being promoted to brokerage. Although the role suited her talents better, she found it difficult to cement her place as a member of the team and be seen as an equal, she said.

“The transition, for me, was really tough going from administrator to broker, especially with the same team, because I was still kind of seen as the administrative support of the team,” she said.

Overall, Reuters said the pandemic had “derailed, or at the very least retarded” the progress of women in the industry. Reuter has been monitoring gender disparities in real estate since the early 2000s, when she helped found a CREW chapter in Tucson and became a national group delegate. By then, she had already been in the industry for over 15 years, starting at PICOR as a freshman and founding its property management division.

“At CREW, we talked about ‘diversity, equity and inclusion’ long before it ‘came to the fore in recent years,'” Reuters said. She adds that “in addition to creating more flexible and supportive work policies for employees,” companies should “remain vigilant in conducting equal pay assessments.”

Casey Flannery is a senior partner on the industrial team at Foundry Commercial in Nashville, Tennessee. (Commercial foundry)

Although the CREW report did not include data on pay gaps, its 2020 findings showed the widest gender disparities for commissions and bonuses. The pay gap between men and women was around 10%, while the commission and bonus gap was almost 56%.

“Women are afraid to negotiate wages in general with the backlash of being perceived as dry or difficult to work with because they try to negotiate their wages. It’s the same with negotiating your shares with your commission within your team,” Flannery said.

CREW research shows that women tend to avoid 100% commission-based roles, which could be due to a lack of knowledge in the field, according to Reuters.

“A lot of women…don’t know what opportunities exist in the commercial real estate industry,” Flannery said. “I think a lot of men lure their sons into the business [while] a lot of women are afraid of a commission role, so they don’t even really consider the brokerage side of the business.

White men earned an average of $121,000 in commissions and bonuses in 2020, while white women earned about $57,600 and black women $34,079. Educating and mentoring women about commission-based roles is crucial, especially for women of color who are statistically less likely to have a mentor, Reuters said. The real estate workforce is about 83% white, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

As a result, women particularly value pay transparency when applying for a job. About 68% of CREW respondents said they would change jobs to a workplace with a culture of pay transparency, and 82% said they wanted job postings to include information about salaries and benefits.


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