A recent study shows women in commercial real estate are more satisfied with career success and closer to the C-suite than ever.
But it also notes that there is an average income gap of 23 percent between men and women, and pay disparity remains a critical industry concern, according to a past president of the Charlotte chapter of Commercial Real Estate Women.
“We are (closer to the C-suite) but there is still an incredible income gap issue that hasn’t been addressed,” said Nancy Olah, a Fort Mill, South Carolina, attorney who was Charlotte chapter president in 2005. “Women start out making less pay and during the course of their careers, they continue to make less pay than men doing comparable work.”
The problem is greater at the C-suite level, the term used to refer to a company’s most important executives, where the gap is the widest — about 30 percent, Olah said.
Still, women occupy more senior vice president, managing director and partner roles in commercial real estate and are more satisfied with their career success than ever, according to the study by CREW Network.
CREW, founded in 1989, is a business networking organization for women in commercial real estate.
With the release of the 2015 Benchmark Study Report: Women in Commercial Real Estate, CREW Network said it has produced its most extensive industry research to date over an unprecedented 10-year span, tracking and analyzing specialization, compensation and career achievement by gender.
Respondents’ positions spanned entry-level to C-suite and represented all major specializations within the field – asset and property management, brokerage and sales, development, and financial services.
The responses revealed important gains made by women in commercial real estate, and areas where inequalities persist.
The key findings:
*Women’s career satisfaction and feelings of success increased across all industry specializations. Women with higher commission-based pay reported the highest career satisfaction.
*More women fill senior vice president, managing director and partner positions than ever.
The percentage of women with direct reports is now on par with males.
*An ‘aspiration gap’ exists between men and women in commercial real estate: 28 percent of women surveyed aspire to the C-suite versus 40 percent of men.
*In 2015, the industry median annual compensation was $115,000 for women and $150,000 for
Men, meaning men made 23.3 percent more. Men made 29.8 percent more at the executive level.
*One in five women surveyed said that family or marital status has adversely impacted their career or compensation.
*Women who responded listed the lack of a company mentor or sponsor as the No. 1 barrier to career success.
“We are encouraged by the positive results of this research and the overall satisfaction of women in commercial real estate, but change is not coming fast enough,” CREW Network CEO Gail S. Ayers said in a statement. “We are looking to industry leaders to take action, and CREW Network remains committed to supporting the industry as it makes this change.”
In commercial real estate, “We’re seeing a lot more women get up to the senior VP level but we’re still not seeing that penetration into the C-suite – the CFOs, the CIOs (chief information officers) and the CEO positions,” said Olah, who is also a member of CREW Network’s Industry Research Committee, one of eight national committees.
The industry is dominated by male developers “and really the developers and the banks are the ones who are going to call the shots on whether deals get done at the end of the day,” she said.
The 2015 study findings will be used to enhance CREW Network’s research and program agenda, including existing mentoring and targeted programming for women.
Sixty women enrolled this year in the inaugural CREW Network Certificate in Leadership program, which offers year-long specialized leadership development, industry training, and mentors who are familiar with the challenges in the commercial real estate work environment.
Olah said her 18-member Industry Research Committee this year will examine gender bias in commercial real estate and look for “micro-aggression,” which she defined as subtle but offensive comments or actions that are often unintentional or unconsciously reinforce a stereotype.
“We hope to be developing not only recommendations for employers and women but also an instrument to be able to identify and measure unconscious gender bias in commercial real estate,” Olah said.
The Certificate in Leadership curriculum was developed from previous CREW Network research findings indicating that women are often reluctant to take risks, negotiate salaries and develop specific career plans that allow them to advance at the same pace as their male counterparts. The latest study shows that issues such as lack of mentorship and concern regarding work/life balance continue to rank highly as barriers to success across genders today – and increasingly so among men.
CREW Network enlisted the MIT Center for Real Estate as its independent research partner to survey, tabulate, analyze and produce the 2015 report.
Respondents were asked the same questions from the 2005 and 2010 surveys to guarantee data integrity and consistency; 2,182 professionals in the commercial real estate industry successfully completed the survey between March and October of 2015.