Although 59% of the U.S workforce is made up of women, The St. Louis Business Journal reports the national average of women in commercial real estate (CRE) is lower at 36.7%.
The good news is that women are becoming more visible throughout the CRE industry. Networking and support groups like Ladies in CRE and Commercial Real Estate Women (CREW) are transforming the industry by advancing women globally through business networking, leadership development, industry research and career outreach.
Despite the good news, there is a long way to go. Women make up just 9% of the C-suite and across all roles, women are paid 34% less than men according to Bisnow.
So, if you are a woman looking to enter CRE, what should you look for in a CRE firm to support your growth?
To achieve balance in the industry, some progressive organizations are trying to intentionally attract, recruit, retain, support, and promote more women.
What do women want in a career?
It turns out that what women want, is really the same opportunity that men already have. Here are the elements to look for when assessing a firm’s eligibility for your talents.
- Inclusive Culture
- Career Growth and Opportunity
- Support and Mentorship
A Culture of Inclusivity
Business is evolving as organizations recognize that cultivating an inclusive and diverse workforce is the smart and profitable thing to do. With diverse professionals in more decision-making roles, companies need to hire and mentor talent that mirrors the culture of their clients, their location, and society.
Stream has 45% female professionals in our ranks throughout the U.S.
From Interns to Directors reaching from Greater Los Angeles to Washington, D.C., Stream is actively and intentionally recruiting, empowering, and promoting women into senior roles. Why? Because diversity, equity and inclusion ensure we’re attracting the best talent.
Career Growth and Opportunity
Firms that help women establish a clear career path, or those with options to move between service lines in pursuit of opportunities and interests can provide you with greater long-term prospects and career satisfaction.
Jessica Stroud started with Stream in accounting but as her interest in property development grew, she transitioned into a development role, to learn more, advance her skills, and take on more responsibility—Jessica was recently promoted to Vice President of Development Services.
At Stream women are emboldened to be entrepreneurial. Executive Vice President Wendy Katz was drawn to the firm because it offered a career path with the opportunity to “build your own business (within a business) and brand.”
Why Empowerment Matters
In Lean In, Sheryl Sandberg wrote about the “double bind” and how women who speak out in a professional setting are often labeled as aggressive, or barely acknowledged. Conversely, when men contribute ideas in the same way, they’re seen as knowledgeable or helpful.
Vibha Gore, Vice President of Enterprise Operations remembered how early in her career, she would not speak up for fear of appearing “argumentative.” She lamented that silence had cost her some wonderful career opportunities. Luckily, her mentor encouraged her to be assertive, to lead, and be authentic. By learning to share her voice, ideas, and concerns she has risen through the ranks and is an asset to her team.
To be heard and taken seriously in the workplace women must be assertive and speak up. Confidence builds by practicing a skill until you are good at it, so speak up often and believe in the value of your opinions; as the late and great Maya Angelou said, “Ask for what you want and be prepared to get it.”
Inclusive and balanced firms empower all employees with the tools, vision, and culture to foster growth and success, so women have the same chance to excel as men do. That equality itself is empowering in an industry that has typically been dominated by men.
Role Models Support and Mentorship
Ambitious women often look up to role models. Carolyn Shaw, Managing Partner in San Antonio names socialite and philanthropist “The unsinkable” Molly Tobin Brown famous for her strength, selflessness, perseverance, and progressiveness. Liz Sheff, Stream’s COO and Partner cites Lawyer and Jurist, the late great Ruth Bader Ginsberg as the voice for gender equality, women’s interests, and civil rights and liberties.
Having female role models in senior and leadership positions inside the organization shows women are rightfully valued and appropriately promoted, seeing women in those roles matters, because then you know getting to the top is achievable. Stream’s own COO and Partner Liz Sheff, is a role model who has reached C suite heights, and because of her style—she leads by example, with integrity and professionalism.
Susan Bloomfield, Chief Marketing Officer describes being inspired in her career by the people who challenge her to be brave enough to “be myself in every situation” she advises women in the workplace to “forget being liked. Be of service. Push yourself and everyone around you to be and do better.”
When choosing a CRE firm, company culture and intentional gender balance is important. A firm that has many female role models in senior positions will attract more women to apply.
Women in the workplace (and men) need to support each other. Stream’s female executives and leaders frequently cite the benefits mentorship had for their careers and many of them now mentor other young women in the business, to help them identify and reach their career goals. Stream formalized The Women of Stream Mentorship Program in March 2021 to support the organization’s female talent in furthering their career development.
Career Advice from the Women of Stream
To inspire you to reflect on what they have collectively learned, we asked our female professionals “What career advice would you give your younger self?”
- Surround yourself with a diverse mix of people and be open to considering their mindset to challenge your own beliefs.
- Don’t be quiet! Be persistent. Be tenacious and relentless, take up room and speak your mind—and don’t apologize for doing so.
- You don’t need to walk and talk like a man to have success in this business. Identify your own strong qualities and use them to become a force in the workplace.
Oh, the Barriers You’ll Break
Success in CRE is about making an impact and building lasting relationships. It’s not only about the number or size of the deals you do. In this business, with Stream, you will have the opportunity to grow your career in many directions, to collaborate with others who are major advocates for women in commercial real estate, and to receive the support and empowerment you deserve.
Learn about all the opportunities that await you.