Contact Us

Women In CRE Say Pipeline, Flexibility Are Key To Diversifying Workplace

When it comes to building a diverse workplace, recruitment and retention are crucial. But until obstacles to recruiting and retaining a team of people with varied backgrounds are addressed and eliminated, there can’t be much industrywide improvement, speakers at a recent Bisnow webinar said.

GHC Housing Partners Executive Vice President Monique Lawshe said she used to be annoyed when she heard developers say that they couldn’t find talented people of color or talented women to fill positions at their companies, but now she sees that there might be something to that claim.  

“I think there is a need to go out and educate our teens, our folks in college, our folks embarking on a new career about development as a career option,” Lawshe said. 

Clockwise from top left: Greystar’s Kesha Fisher, Rising Realty Partners’ Kayce Hawk, Ambiculture Real Estate Advisors’ Jennifer Taylor and GHC Housing Partners’ Monique Lawshe

Lawshe spoke on a panel on recruitment and retention during Bisnow’s Women in CRE Leadership, Los Angeles webinar along with Greystar Director of Real Estate Kesha Fisher, Rising Realty Partners Senior Vice President of Property Management Kayce Hawk, Majestic Realty Co. Managing Director Reon Roski, Ambiculture Real Estate Advisors Managing Principal Jennifer Taylor and Brookfield Property Partners Vice President of Leasing Marin Turney

Raising commercial real estate’s visibility as a career path early on is a way to ensure that a variety of people are finding their way into the field. Brookfield’s Turney said a major selling point for brokerage and leasing careers is, because they are independent contractor positions, they are incredibly flexible. 

“Oftentimes, I am on calls with dads who are coaching their kids’ soccer games at 3 p.m., or mothers who are able to do drop-off on their way into a leasing tour,” Turney said.

There is, of course, another side to the coin, which is that there is no financial safety net, Turney said. A down year can be significant and affect income greatly. Still, that flexibility is key for working parents, who may not have to feel like they have to choose between their families and their work obligations as a result, Turney said. 

Some brokerages have begun to re-examine the commission-only compensation policy, an acknowledgment that, with its high level of risk, it is often an obstacle to those looking to enter the field. 

Bisnow has reported that the gender pay parity issue in brokerages has worsened over the past five years, and that the mechanism for divvying up commissions is among the reasons for that disparity.

In areas of commercial real estate that are not inherently flexible, offering or negotiating solutions to help workers keep a work-life balance is a powerful tool toward retaining workers, Rising Realty’s Hawk said. She shared a pre-pandemic story about a general manager on her team who asked to work from home one day a week as a way to cut down on the time she spent commuting or in the office instead of with her child.

Property management is very much tethered to a physical space and an on-site presence, but Hawk said she had every confidence that this worker could continue to do quality work in this new arrangement and knew how significant this concession would be for the employee. Ultimately the worker’s request was granted.

“She knows that ask from any other property management company would be a pretty tough yes to come by,” Hawk said.

The takeaway from this interaction for Hawk was that companies need to be open to broader, more out-of-the-box ideas if it means making a change that helps hold on to a valuable team member. 

“It never hurts to try something. If it doesn’t work out, it doesn’t work out, but give it a try. Keep your great people with you,” Hawk said.