gain and again, women in commercial real estate have been pushed aside, ignored, discouraged, maligned or worse. In the midst of the global #MeToo movement, those struggles — namely equal pay, equal treatment and equal opportunity - have emphatically risen to the surface to force the industry to chart a new, more inclusive course. But change can take time.
Yet in one critical corner of real estate change has already begun: Women now account for an estimated 34% of all financial service positions in the commercial real estate industry. That makes it the second-largest specialization for women in the industry behind asset management - just ahead of development and brokerage services, according to the latest CREW survey.
That is far from equal, but given the truism that commercial real estate is male-dominated, real estate finance now represents one of the largest and fastest-growing sectors for women in all of commercial real estate — and that is because there is a more natural education path for women that leads to financial service positions.
"There is a multitude and variety of participants in the sector: lenders, loan servicers, underwriters, due-diligence providers, attorneys, accountants, appraisers," The Commercial Real Estate Finance Council Executive Director Lisa Pendergast told Bisnow. "Then consider the diverse business establishments and cultures from which they hail. It's the level of diversity in terms of roles and functions that leads to a culture that is far more embracing than a single-focused sector."
But there is still a long way to go.
"It comes down to the culture that you're creating and the inclusivity — are you engaging diversity throughout the organization and are you committing to inclusive behavior once you have a diverse staff?" CREW CEO Wendy Mann told Bisnow. “It's one thing to bring diverse people of color and gender into the company, but if they still see that the environment they're working in is not embracing them as a diverse people, they won't stay and won't feel like it's a great place to work."
Bisnow spoke with 15 female executives who specialize in commercial real estate finance to better understand how they penetrated the market and what steps the industry is taking to diversify the ranks and create more opportunities for women entering the workforce.