Skip to main content

Even As The Number Of Female Directors Grows, Most Women In CRE Still Face Challenges

“What the survey shows is that the needle has not moved that much for women in commercial real estate.”

NEWPORT BEACH, CA–Earlier this week the Wall Street Journal published some encouraging numbers for women in commercial real estate: Of the 94 REIT directors elected this year during the spring proxy season, 52% were women, according to a study by Ferguson Partners. It was the first time women were the majority of directors elected.

A more sobering stat from Ferguson is that only 8 REITs have female CEOs.

A separate survey by recruiting firm RETS Associates moves forward this notion that while women in CRE are slowly but steadily advancing in the boardroom — at least in the public sector — there is still something wrong with the state of gender equality in CRE.

In short, the RETS survey found that the majority of women are still grappling with basic issues of fairness and pay parity.

Its 2018 Women in CRE Survey, which had 615 participants, found that 87.2% of respondents agree or strongly agree that the biggest challenge facing women in CRE today is equal pay, followed closely by a lack of promotion opportunities and feeling that female opinions aren’t as valued or respected as their male counterparts (79.2 and 79.1% respectively).

“What the survey shows is that the needle has not moved that much for women in commercial real estate,” Jana Turner, principal, RETS Associates and a former executive of a Fortune 500 global CRE company tells In 2003 when Turner was working with that global CRE company she found out that a male counterpart in an acquisition the company was making made more money and had less responsibility than she did. Turner rectified the situation by becoming “loud and vocal” with her boss and she continues to be loud and vocal about this issue, producing her survey and speaking to groups about gender equality.

A Granular Examination

Indeed the report gets quite granular in its examination of women’s experiences in the CRE industry.

  • Sixty-five percent of respondents noted that they were made aware of being paid less than a male counterpart at some point in their career. Of those, 75% noted it happened at least two times.
  • Sixty-one percent of survey respondents noted that they felt they were bypassed for a job, assignment or listing at some point in their career based on gender. Of those, 82% reported that it happened more than once, and 54% noted it happened three or more times.
  • Almost two-thirds (63%) did not take action after being bypassed for a job, assignment or listing
  • Of those who did take action, 45% began looking for a new job, 28% discussed with HR or management and the issue was not resolved to their satisfaction, 17% resigned, 7% had the issue resolved to their satisfaction, and 3% took legal action
  • The top three reasons for not taking action were fear of losing future career opportunities, fear of poor treatment from leadership or fear of reputation damage.

Sexual Harassment Continues

While sexual harassment wasn’t identified by respondents as one of the biggest challenges they face, more than half (52%) reported having been sexually harassed at some point in their career.

  • 84% noted it happened more than once
  • 41% reported that it happened five or more times
  • 33% noted that they were sexually harassed by five or more people throughout their career
  • 76% did not report the sexual harassment to HR or management
  • 10% of those that reported the harassment noted that the accused lost their job
  • 34% of respondents that reported the harassment noted that no action was taken against the accused.

Ask For What You Want

Bottom line: the survey showed that women’s biggest issues are around the pocketbook and that sexual discrimination or harassment — although still a problem — took a back seat, Turner says.

Her advice to women who want to advance financially: ask. “Be able to demonstrate your value when you do ask, of course. But I believe when you do ask there is a 95% chance that you will get what you want, especially if you have been underpaid.” Turner says that CRE executives are mostly passive on this issue and are unlikely to proactive offer to raise women’s compensation unless prodded.

JUNE 28, 2018 | BY ERIKA MORPHY article