Are Women Really Making Progress in the Commercial Real Estate Industry?

Are Women Really Making Progress in the Commercial Real Estate Industry?

The answer is “depends on what you mean by progress.” A recently released 10-year benchmark study commissioned by the CREW Network found that women in commercial real estate are more satisfied with their career progression than they were a decade ago, a significant leap for an industry that’s still known for being predominantly white and male. The improvements included more women filling senior vice president, managing director and partner positions, as well as a growing percentage of women with direct reports.

Still, with all the progress being made, some industry stats continue to be reminiscent of George Orwell’s famous line about “some animals” being “more equal than others.”

Here is an in-depth picture of how things have changed for women in the commercial real estate industry since the peak of the last market cycle.

  1. Women’s level of satisfaction with their career success was the same in 2015 as in 2005, at 59 percent. (The figure did represent an improvement from 2010, when the level of satisfaction dropped to 53 percent, coinciding with the worst real estate downturn in years). Both women and men in commercial real estate now report the same level of satisfaction with their career progression, whereas back in 2005 men had slightly higher levels of satisfaction, at 61 percent.
  2. At the same time, women’s level of satisfaction with their career success showed a significant increase once they’ve accumulated more than 20 years of experience. Female industry professionals in that group reported higher levels of satisfaction in 2015 compared to 2005 (at 76 percent vs. 71 percent) and higher levels of satisfaction than men with similar length of experience (who rated their level of satisfaction with their career success at 72 percent in 2015 vs. 68 percent in 2005).
  3. Interestingly, a much smaller percentage of women than men in commercial real estate reported career aspirations toward a C-suite position, at 28 percent (the figure for men with such aspirations was 40 percent). On the other hand, 47 percent of women vs. 39 percent of men aspire to a senior vice president position, and 15 percent of women vs. 9 percent of men aspire to a senior level position.
  4. Women also reported gender discrimination and constraints resulting from family/parenting responsibilities as among their perceived top barriers to success (gender discrimination was third on the top five barriers list, after lack of a mentor/sponsor and lack of promotion opportunity, and family constraints was fifth). Neither of those factors made the men’s top five list, while most of the other factors were similar for both genders.
  5. Between 2006 and 2015, the real estate industry experienced increases in the percentage of women professionals in the asset management (51 percent to 54 percent) and development (23 percent to 38 percent) sectors. The percentage of women in brokerage and finance has declined over the same period—from 39 percent to 29 percent in brokerage and from 44 percent to 42 percent in finance.
  6. Women still consistently earn less than men performing the same jobs across industry sectors, with the biggest pay gap (33.8 percent) in the brokerage industry, and the smallest gap (16.7 percent) in finance.

  7. The gender pay gap seems to stay fairly constant with age and experience, but increases as women climb the corporate ladder. In 2015, the pay gap between women and men in executive positions was 6.1 percent—compared to a pay gap of only 2.2 percent for women and men in positions below management level, for example.

    Part of the reason for the gap may be the fact that professional women in general negotiate for salary increases less frequently than men and ask for about 30 percent less in pay increases, the study notes. At the same time, studies suggest that women experience more pushback than men when they do try to negotiate for higher pay.

The report included survey respondents from 2,182 participants: 1,700 women and 482 men. The participants were based in both the U.S. and Canada. MIT Center for Real Estate served as CREW’s independent research partner for the study. The underwriters for the study included commercial real estate services firm CBRE, Prudential, CREW Dallas, Cushman & Wakefield | Picor, Fidelity National Title and the National Multi Housing Council (NMHC).

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