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Cori English New East Bay CRE Leader As Diversity Lags

Well-known commercial real estate pro Cori English has been named managing principal for Cushman & Wakefield’s San Francisco East Bay market. 

The move represents one of the first times a woman has served as a market lead for any commercial real estate company in the Bay Area, according to a statement from the firm, highlighting a broader issue of a sustained lack of women being represented in CRE.

“I love this industry, and I really want it to grow in ways that are meaningful and equitable,” English said. “I'm not taking this role or opportunity lightly. I’ve worked really hard to make my way and be successful throughout my career.”

Cori English

English’s work in the industry began in Southern California’s Orange County suburban market before transferring to high-density San Francisco, she said, adding that the contrast provided a well-rounded perspective on the office market as well as the dynamic between the urban and suburban realms, which is a crucial element in understanding the East Bay region.

She has also worked as an executive recruiter and was a principal on the CRE ownership side, gaining an understanding of building systems and infrastructure necessary for development projects.

“We believe Cori brings a unique perspective that will result in better solutions and increased value for our clients,” Cushman & Wakefield Northern California Managing Principal Matt Chatham said. “As a market leader, she will also have an influential impact in our industry and as a role model for other professional women.” 

As a veteran of the CRE industry with over 20 years of commercial real estate experience under her belt, English said she was not surprised to learn that she is one of the first women to advance as a market leader in the region and has advice to share for others who want to enter the field or climb the ranks.

“Get involved in industry organizations,” English said. “Find a mentor or coach to support your growth and provide advice, and focus on what's really important to you. Align yourself with those who share your values and work hard."

"It isn't an industry for the faint of heart. It takes a lot of hard work, a lot of time to learn the industry, to build a network, and you’ve got to live through a business cycle and maintain your focus. There’s no easy button, but it's worth it.”

The current coronavirus pandemic-themed cycle illustrates the need for a long-term perspective. English said the market is in a wait-and-see mode, with sublease office space still hitting the market and vaccine distribution underway, hopefully heralding steadily increasing market activity as the year progresses.

The East Bay still has one of the hottest life sciences sectors right now and a strong multifamily development pipeline, which holds promise for suburban office demand as people seek to work closer to home, English said.

Oakland-San Francisco skyline as viewed from Berkeley Hills

Among other impacts, the pandemic has severely depressed the number of women in the U.S. labor force, with a net loss of 2.4 million women between February 2020 and February 2021, compared to a net drop of 1.8 million men, as reported by the World Economic Forum. For industries such as CRE that have historically lagged in diversity metrics, the past year represents another missed opportunity for progress. 

A study from the CREW Network tracking industry professionals between Jan. 2, 2020, and March 31, 2020, found women make up 36.7% of the CRE industry, remaining at about that level for the past 15 years.

There has been a 6% increase since 2015 in the number of women who occupy brokerage roles. Another persistent issue is a salary gap in which men in CRE earn 10.2% more than women, with the gap being even greater for women of color, though there are some differences by race, specialization and career level.

“I am dismayed by the extreme disparity in compensation for women of color in this industry,” CREW Network CEO Wendy Mann said in a statement. “We have to do better for women of color and it starts by recognizing their barriers to equal pay, opportunities and success.”

English cited the CREW Network as an example of an organization women can get involved in to help further their CRE careers. The organization released a 2019 report citing data from McKinsey & Co. indicating that companies ranking in the top 25% tier for gender diversity have a 15% chance of earning financial returns above the national industry median. 

“My hope and my vision is that the industry starts to reflect that diversity in the region and where we work and the clients we serve,” English said. “The more diverse the industry, the better the industry is going to be in the long run and the more creative and dynamic the opportunities and solutions will be as a result of that.”