Women in commercial real estate see gains, but have a long way to go

October 01, 2010  |  Staff Writer  |  Print Article  |  Email this Article

Guest column by Tina Hoye

Tina Hoye

It is hard to believe, but this year I will mark 25 years working in the commercial real estate industry.  When asked to write this article, I thought it would be fun to talk to other women in the industry, veterans and newcomers, and see how much things have changed over that time. Turns out, I was in for a surprise!

Although women have embraced many aspects of real estate (property management or law for example), brokerage work continues to have a very small group of active women. Some statistics for you:  In 1972, Minneapolis BOMA (Building Owners and Managers Association) had one female property manager. By 1992, membership had increased to 25 percent, and today 42 percent of regular members are women.  MNCAR membership (a group comprised primarily of commercial brokers), on the other hand, includes only 17 percent female members.

In my conversations with both seasoned and younger brokers there were many common threads.  Everyone came into real estate by “accident,” not by plan. It might have been an internship or a referral from the family that got people started in this business. One woman had managed an office move and became interested in the real estate industry as a result. Another worked in an employment agency, a real estate firm was her client and she became intrigued with their work.

Regardless of how the brokers came to the industry, they all felt it was a great career. These women felt that they had succeeded in part because of the support of their male colleagues, not in spite of them. The challenging work, flexibility, relative independence and ability to define their own success were all benefits identified for women in the brokerage industry. Being a woman can even be an advantage! You stand out in a crowd of brokers and, hopefully, to your clients.

The general consensus was that women often bring complementary skills to the table, with a different communication style or by being more service-oriented. Over time, even in brokerage, the work has become more team-oriented and service-driven. Women are often part of the client’s decisionmaking team, and they may look for more female representation in their service partners. So why don’t more women choose commercial real estate as a career?

Most people (men and women) are not aware of commercial real estate as a career growing up. There are no easily described role models like police officers, astronauts or presidents of the United States.  Perhaps a TV drama is needed in which every week a deal falls apart five times in the course of an hour before finally coming together; that might get the industry some recognition.

There are other barriers to entering the industry, not the least of which is the nature of the compensation. Working for commissions is not for everyone – that is true for men, as well. However, women succeed in residential real estate in large numbers. Women are active in other sales and commission-based  industries, too, so that can’t be the sole reason. Perhaps some women are put off by the “cowboy” reputation the industry can have. I believe, however, that a lot of the bravado is superficial. The industry continues to become more professional. The successful brokers are hardworking and respectful.

In the end, it is in all of our best interests to reach out to young women, letting them know what great opportunities are available in commercial real estate brokerage. We should make a point of supporting newcomers to the industry, knowing that the first years are really tough. Partnerships with the local universities — not just the real estate departments, but the entire business school — should be cultivated.  Some of the national firms are taking steps in this area, but perhaps it should be addressed industry-wide as well.

Hoye, with more than 20 years of experience in corporate real estate, works with companies on strategic planning, site selection, lease negotiations, financial analysis and related services. Before founding Nelson, Tietz & Hoye in 1993, she worked with a Minneapolis-based corporate real estate service provider.

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6 Responses to “Women in commercial real estate see gains, but have a long way to go”

  1. Lori Pace says:

    I am a young women who is eager to break into commercial real estae and desperately seeking a mentor and a open door whre I can roll of my sleeves and begin working hard.

  2. Georgia Kokkinias says:

    Being a woman in commercial real estate requires a very special type of personality. Self confidence and a strong personality are required. Most women might not like working in a male dominated field, I actually thrive in it. And for the most part I have always been welcomed in the good old boy network. After running my own brokerage firm for five years and meeting a lot of wonderful male mentors, I wish I had started this years ago. I also was in a totally different field (nuclear medicine) before going right into commercial real estate. I had specialized in industrial and land. Now I am doing a variety of commercial real estate since I have a huge percentage of bank controlled properties. I have not seen how women were treated in the past in this field, but I have heard horror stories. Thank God things have changed! Now I hope the economy continues to change for the better!

  3. CREW Network is committed to leading to change. CREW Network provides members the strongest business connections available; providing targeted training to create strong industry leaders; facilitating industry advancement by conducting important industry research; and creating a strong CREW Network brand to promote the professional excellence of CREW Network members.

    CREW Network Industry Research Committee is the leader in women’s commercial real estate research partnering with Cornell University to develop “Glass Ceiling or Sticky Floor: The State of Women’s Advancement in Commercial Real Estate” and its 2010 Benchmarking Study Research “Women in Commercial Real Estate: 2010”

    Finally, CREW Network is committed to developing the next generation of commercial real estate professionals through CREW Foundation, UCREW, CREW Careers and mentoring programs.

  4. Gail Ayers says:

    Lori,
    CREW Network is an 8,000 member organization with chapters in 73 major markets in the US and Canada. Every 5 years we report on the status of women in commercial real estate and we represent women in 23 different specialities. Our 2010 Benchmark results are due to be reported in two weeks at our convention in San Franscisco. The study is extensive cutting across all specialities with comparison data going back to 2005! Our research partner is Cornell University and 3,000 people were surveyed across 13 of the major associations in commercial real estate.

    We are an organization that promotes advancing the industry through the talent of women and we hope you will contact us to learn how you can find a connection in your market. We offer 10 ten thousand dollar scholarships each year to promising young women in university undergraduate programs and we offer mentoring also!

    The International headquarters of CREW Network is located in Kansas! Join us because we have fantastic mentoring program.

  5. Lori: We are currently looking to add investment real estate professionals to our team. We offer comprehensive training and mentorship and the opportunity to work on real transactions very quickly (one of our new agents who graduated from college 5 months ago just put his first multi-family property under contract this week!). If you would like to learn more about either Marcus & Millichap or about the industry as a whole, please do not hesitate to be in touch with me. You can find me through my company’s website (www.marcusmillichap.com), Twitter (solpo), LinkedIn or Facebook.


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