The Rise of Women in Commercial Real Estate

Considering March is Women’s History Month and this year marks the centennial of the 19th Amendment, I think we can all agree that women have made significant progress professionally, culturally, and personally. More than at any other time in history, we are claiming C-suite positions in major business sectors and leading our own companies. Yet just two years ago, a 2018 Forbes article citing data compiled by the Commercial Real Estate Network (CREW), pointed out that only 29 percent of all commercial real estate brokers nationwide were women. Having worked in commercial real estate since 1985, and for over 20 years in executive positions, I have a few thoughts on the subject.

For a long period after coming to Cresa in 2001, I was the sole female professional in the New York office. In the past few years, we have begun to see more women joining commercial firms, including our Cresa New York office, where I was appointed Managing Principal in 2017. Our company now has a very active diversity committee and supports hiring and cultivating female professionals, both experienced and new to the industry. To me, diversity is working side-by-side with my colleagues, both male and female.

One of my personality traits that has helped me the most is that I have never had a problem speaking my mind. Over the years, I have worked with some male peers who were dismissive, condescending and even tried to undermine me. Those were difficult times, but I always held my course and each situation ended with me being the last person standing. I was also given exceptional opportunities to learn and advance myself by other, more progressive male and female bosses who recognized my skills, talent, and enthusiasm. In return, they got an incredible amount of professional dedication and loyalty from me.

"I realize how important it is to support and cultivate young women who are entering the commercial real estate business."

Now that I am in a senior position, I realize how important it is to support and cultivate young women who are entering the commercial real estate business. We recently hired Nora Campbell who has been in the industry for just over a year. Her prior experience in the executive search industry means that she understands networking. She recently single-handedly organized and moderated a panel discussion of women CEOs, with a 120-person turnout. She has great promise  and I am enjoying acting as a mentor to her.

I have many contemporary female friends at competing firms. Those of us who came to the table earlier had more of an uphill battle, but we held our ground. At the end of the day, we recognized the rewards were there if we didn’t give up. It’s still not easy by any means, but I believe that the path ahead for the younger women entering commercial real estate will be a bit less steep.

Our jobs are inherently competitive but at Cresa, we have a more collaborative environment. Our professionals work as a team across the country, always putting our clients’ needs first. As a female professional, I consider myself fortunate to be part of such a diverse and supportive community.