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With Some Progress at Mid-Level Management, Women are Largely a Minority in Commercial Real Estate

CommercialCafe, CREW, Yardi Systems, Seattle, Puget Sound, Commercial Real Estate

By Michele Chandler

While the gender gap has narrowed considerably among top managers working in the residential real estate industry, men still overwhelmingly occupy upper management positions at commercial real estate companies, according to an analysis by commercial real estate blog CommercialCafe.

The gender gap is especially pronounced in top-tier commercial real estate jobs, where women hold just 14 percent of upper-management positions, compared to the 86 percent of upper management positions that are held by male employees, according to the blog’s findings.

But a tier lower, in middle management, it’s a different story.

Women occupy 67 percent of the middle management positions in commercial real estate industry, while men hold just 33 percent, the study finds.

The publication examined the distribution of men and women occupying middle and upper management positions at some of the largest real estate services companies in the United States where information related to organizational structure was publicly available.

“Antiquated notions have long been associated with the industry–men have a better chance at winning over clients and closing major deals, as women tend to be perceived as more emotional and likely to cave under the pressure that comes with the job,” the group said about what sparked its evaluation. “It’s no wonder then that the subject of diversity and female representation is still a sensitive one.”

The blog said its analysis included 11 commercial real estate-focused companies and eight residential real estate services firms where all positions at the companies were divided into two tiers. The middle management tier includes workers with the titles of general managers, regional managers, marketing managers, operations managers, research manager, and other positions with manager titles. The upper management tier includes C-suite, president, chairman, partner, director and principal positions.

One possible explanation of the low number of women in top-tier commercial real estate positions, the blog surmised, “is that turnover is very slow in the commercial business. Top-level executives are often the very people who founded the company in the first place, and they tend to hold their positions for decades.”

In addition, the report said, the largest firms in the industry were founded years ago, when the gender gap in the commercial real estate workplace was significantly wider. CommercialCafe’s analysis did not break out gender by company, or identify which particular firms were examined for the report.

CommercialCafe is an arm of Santa Barbara-based Yardi Systems, which develops a real estate investment and property management software for commercial, residential, public, industrial and retail industries.

Another recent study found that pay is another area where women at all levels in the commercial real estate industry lag behind their male counterparts.

Compensation is more than 23 percent greater for men than women working in commercial real estate, according to CREW Network’s 2015 benchmark study, with brokers and developers reporting the greatest disparities. The group said the gap only rises with years of experience and is most pronounced among people holding C-Suite positions.

The report is CREW’s third and most recent comprehensive analysis of pay, advancement and career satisfaction among women and men working in commercial real estate and covers management, brokerage, development and finance segments of the industry.

According to CREW’s study, the percentage of women and men with up to five years of experience is comparable, but men advance more rapidly. Men are nearly twice as likely to hold C-Suite positions as women, although that gap is decreasing, the CREW study found.

Relationships with senior executives is the most influential factor for career advancement, so the absence of an internal mentor or sponsor and the lack of promotion opportunities are the greatest barriers for career advancement, according to women who participated in CREW’s study. For men, lack of an undergraduate degree and wrong or poor employer choice emerged as the greatest barriers to professional development in the commercial real estate industry.

Commercial real estate leaders should make mentoring and sponsorship for women a priority, consider unconscious bias, and also check for pay disparities between men and women, the CREW study suggests.

Founded in 1989, CREW is dedicated to advancing the achievements of women working in the commercial real estate industry.