No Progress for Women in Commercial Real Estate

October 21, 2020
Written by: Wendy Mann, CAE, CREW Network CEO

Power with purpose: How women's leadership boosts the economy and society
March 7, 2016, McKinsey

Hiring more female leaders is good for profits. Here’s the evidence,
Dec. 10, 2018, World Economic Forum

Research: When Gender Diversity Makes Firms More Productive,
Feb. 11, 2019, Harvard Business Review

Female CEOs Are Scarce, But History Shows They Can Produce Huge Returns,
March 11, 2019, CNBC

When and Why Diversity Improves Your Board’s Performance,
March 27, 2019, Harvard Business Review

Yes, these are the headlines that have been heralding a dynamic shift in business under female leadership. In fact, we have heard repeatedly in all forms—editorial, research and anecdotally—that women-run businesses, countries and organizations have better governance, business results and decision-making. More importantly, they are more profitable than companies with all-male leadership teams.

So why does our 2020 CREW Network benchmark study show that there has been very little progress for women in commercial real estate over the past five years? 

Despite collective efforts, the pay gap has not narrowed—it has increased since 2015, our last benchmark year. In 2020, the fixed salary gap between genders is 10.2% and the commission and bonus gap is a staggering 55.9%.

The number of women in asset management, finance and development have declined. Women’s job satisfaction in commercial real estate is at an all time low—the lowest it has been since we began benchmarking. 

More discouraging numbers: women occupy 36.7% of the commercial real estate industry. The needle has not moved in terms of the number of women in the industry since we began the study in 2005. Women continue to be less likely to reach top positions at their companies than men. Women still hold just 9% of C-suite positions in commercial real estate.

What gives? As I analyze this disturbing data, I scratch my head trying to figure out why there has been little progress. With the extensive research information we provide industry leaders—as well as validation from other sources—why are we at a standstill when it comes to pay parity, equal opportunity and job satisfaction for women in commercial real estate? 

We’ve done our part. We have given the industry the data, the tools and resources to change the paradigm. In each research report and benchmark study we provide a section titled “what can you do?” providing specific actions for women, human resource professionals and CEOs. 

Indeed, what can you do? We know that the fish rots from the head down. So any progress starts at the top. What will be your first step toward real action for change?

  • Will you conduct ongoing pay equity assessments? 

  • Will you give Black, indigeneous and people of color (BIPOC) the same pay for equal work? 

  • Will you set intentional goals for attracting and promoting women to leadership roles? 

  • Will you boost and open opportunities for women to lead the best deals, biggest projects and most prestiges client meetings? 

  • Will you groom high potential women into executive level roles? 

This is not rocket science. These are simple actions that have far-reaching impact for your company, women and BIPOC. If money talks (and we know it does), then this should be an easy lift for commercial real estate companies. Research has proven that women in leadership increase profitability. The time is now. Let’s not slide backward—keep moving women forward by taking action.
Now. Here. Today. 


Wendy Mann, CAE

Wendy Mann is the chief executive officer of Commercial Real Estate Women (CREW) Network and president of the CREW Network Foundation.

Twitter: @crew_wendym

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