Why Women In CRE Are Job Hunting

By Carrie Rossenfeld | Orange County

NEWPORT BEACH, CA—A full 57% of women in the commercial real estate industry are actively involved in job search, has learned exclusively. According to an inaugural study conducted by locally based real estate recruiting firm RETS Associates and Gillham, Golbeck & Associates, a Dallas-based executive-search firm focused exclusively on commercial real estate, more than half of women in commercial real estate are unhappy with their jobs and are looking for new opportunities.

Out of nearly 400 CRE professionals nationwide who were surveyed about their experiences, desires and needs in their work environment, the women attributed this sentiment to feeling that they have been bypassed for promotions (47%), that they lack mentorship and support opportunities within their organization (87%) and that they perceive an increase in job opportunities for their role in other firms (51%). spoke with Jana Turner, a principal with RETS Associates, who says the survey indicates that women are going to leave their current positions and possibly even the industry, which will have a direct effect on their firms and the market. Are the findings in this survey surprising?

Turner: No, not at all, from my perspective. I was in the CRE business for more than 30 years and still have a lot of connections there. Women have been relegated to their position without promotion opportunities and growth, so everyone’s popping their head up and looking around. There’s just been a lack of opportunity for women. There’s been a recent increase in women staying home with children, too, which I think indicates that companies are not creating an environment that is user friendly or family friendly. If they were more creative, more flexible on the job position and requirements, they could clearly close that gap. What can and should be done about this?

Turner: Companies are going to have to start instituting family-friendly policies. If you go to the website of every major real estate owner, service provider, developer and investment manager, there’s not more than 10% woman at the top, and the 10% represent either women in an HR or marketing role, one or two CFOs and that’s it. All these companies say they have women networks and mentoring programs, but something’s not working. It’s either a lack of execution on the programs or they just talk about it. There’s such great talent out there, but no one is listening, mentoring or training on the one side, and on the other, there’s no one engaging the entire work force. They’ve got to get the entire group on the same page about opportunities for women, and that’s not happening. There has to be an absolute culture shift, and I’m hoping that the Millennials and XYs will have strong influence on companies to reach out to all employee types to create a diverse, integrated and balanced workforce. So, the movement toward a collaborative office environment doesn’t extend to women?

Turner: The workplace is not as collaborative and engaging for women as they’d like it to be, and I hear that time and time again. They feel less respected within their own company than they do outside their firm with competition and clients. I get that all the time. These companies really need to look internally at what they’re saying and what they’re doing with regard to opportunities for women. I don’t they’re doing what they say they are. I don’t think the programs that they say are creating a diverse, engaging, collaborative work environment are working, and I think it relates to educating all the other people in the business—in particular, getting men to understand women, work closer with them, have trust and respect for each other. Women are not feeling respected and acknowledged, and they feel they’ve been bypassed for promotions for gender reasons. Are there areas of the industry where women see more opportunities?

Turner: We’re seeing the complete opposite in tech space, and we do see more opportunity in the finance area for women. We’re seeing more upward mobility for women in finance, especially if they have a finance degree, an MBA and strong accreditation. But the commission-based transaction program does not resonate with young professional women. The commission-based environment model is antiquated. What else can be done?

Turner: It takes two to tango. It’s got to be women stepping up a bit more and being more vocal and helping to be more a part of the solution. It’s not just about women, but about the entire employee base. Hiring managers need to be very in tune with it, too. Companies can’t just talk about opportunities for women; they have to demonstrate it. An engaging and collaborative environment is not about the furniture and the floor. It’s about the people.