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Empowering Women

For years the Commercial Real Estate Women (CREW) Network has worked to increase the number of women employed in the industry. It has succeeded in that regard. Women now account for 36 percent of professionals (up from 32 percent in 2000). There's been less progress, however, when it comes to paychecks.

In its latest report, “Minding the Gap: A Road Map for Women to Take on Greater Leadership Roles in Commercial Real Estate,” CREW delved into the reasons for disparity in compensation and position between men and women. The study was a follow-up to its first industrywide study last year, “The Women in Commercial Real Estate Survey 2005,” which it conducted to create a benchmark measuring areas such as job satisfaction, seniority and compensation.

The impetus for this year's survey was to dig deeper into what was raised in the initial review. Specifically, CREW wanted to answer the question of why there is a disparity in positions and compensations between men and women in commercial real estate, according to Marianne Ajemian, president of CREW Network.

She says they wanted to look at what would benefit women most when it came to performance-based compensation and whether women fully understand that pay structure. It found the highest-paying positions in the industry are performance based — for example, salary plus commission or salary plus bonus — not ones that offer a straight salary.

“Transparency is key to negotiating a fair level of compensation,” says Ajemian. “One of the things we did find is there is a lack of transparency with both men and women, but moreso with women. Women don't talk to each other about salary and compensation and aren't arming themselves with the information they need to negotiate the best packages for themselves.”

“Minding the Gap” findings were gleaned from 385 in-person interviews during an eight-week period in August and September 2006. Those respondents were pulled from the 1,834 participants in the 2005 online survey. The latest interviews were conducted in 61 cities throughout the United States where CREW has chapters.

As a result of its latest findings, the Lawrence, Kan.-based organization, with 7,300 members nationwide (90 percent women), has reviewed the compensation structure and will offer training sessions to help women advance in the industry.

Founded in 1989, CREW recognizes that because of the past culture there is disparity among women throughout business and not just in the real estate industry.

To help advance the success of women and diverse talent within the industry, the largest commercial real estate brokerage, CB Richard Ellis Inc., has committed more than $100,000 to fund CREW's industry research since 2005. CB Richard Ellis' vice president of global corporate services, Deborah Quok, notes one of the company's business imperatives is a commitment to a diverse workforce.

“We can provide better solutions for our clients with the cumulative thinking of a diverse workforce,” says Quok.

Also, CB Richard Ellis has been supportive of CREW's research to help identify and spotlight talented women in the industry. For the past two years, a woman, Darcy Stacom in the New York City office, has been the top broker for the firm.

According to Ajemian, as commercial real estate becomes increasingly global the industry's challenge will be to attract and retain racial and ethnic minorities in addition to broadening gender diversity to reflect the changing demographics of customers.

“That's especially true in retail,” says Ajemian, “when you look at the customers you want to attract.”

GGP Janitors' Comp

General Growth Properties announced it will offer market-based wages and affordable health insurance to the janitors at its 194 regional malls as part of an agreement with its third-party vendors. Under the program, starting Labor Day, third-party cleaning services doing business with General Growth will be required to meet minimum standards. While exact wages and benefits will be set by the respective vendors, they all are required to provide health plans that are 75 percent employer-paid, pay wages that are competitive for the market and offer an employee complaint resolution process. To be eligible the janitors must work more than 20 hours per week.

Mini-Me from Taubman

Taubman Centers has begun providing students with the Web tools and products to create virtual versions of themselves to let family and friends know what they want for the back-to-school season. Kids can customize the characters down to their clothing and send pre-recorded messages with wishlists to family and friends. Users can also send the messages via e-mail or post it to MySpace pages, blogs or Web sites. Using the Web-based technology, receivers will not only be able to view the list, but can access sales information. The Auto-Photo technology will be available for three months at 10 Taubman centers.

LEED Neighborhood

LEED for Neighborhood Development Pilot Program has selected real estate developer Stonehaus' planned mixed-use development Belvedere as the first neighborhood in Central Virginia for the program. Belvedere will be comprised of more than 400 Energy Star and EarthCraft certified homes, loft apartments, retail space, green office buildings and civic core. Situated on 207 acres Belvedere's Inter-Active Neighborhood design will possess three key elements. It is committed to nature and sustainability, it encourages social interaction and embraces healthy lifestyles. LEED's Neighborhood Development rating system blends the principles of smart growth, urbanism and green building. The rating will be used to help planners and developers create affordable housing communities that protect the environment, address physical activity and public health issues, among other things.

Mall Radio Network

Arbitron Inc. conducted a second test with its Portable People Meter (PPM) and found that 44 percent of the time shoppers are in malls they may be receptive to promotions aired over mall radio networks. In its pilot test, Arbitron determined the PPM system could be used to track the amount of time shoppers are exposed to Mall Radio Network (MRN) content. In the latest test, participants in the study were given the passive measurement device (a PPM) to detect exposure to encoded audio content and commercials broadcast by MRN. The findings support previous data demonstrating the role of “malls as media” to prospective advertisers. MRN is a media and music company with a national broadcast network in the concourse areas of 21 regional malls in the United States.

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