Org Spotlight: CREW
No excuses: there should be more women in senior positions in commercial real estate. But a caveat, from a Toronto CREW co-founder: If it isn’t earned, then, “that diminishes the accomplishment,” says GWL Realty Advisors SVP Anne Morash.
With the 20th anniversary of the birth of the Toronto chapter fast approaching, we sat down with Anne, S&H Realty prez Danny Klempfner (Toronto CREW’s first president), and Daoust Vukovich partner/Embee Development Corp director Francine Baker-Sigal (the other co-founder, Virginia Beauchamp, has retired).
The three women knew each other 10 years prior to founding Toronto CREW, in 1996, so a call to meet at Bymark fast turns into a social call. Theirs is the type of business camaraderie founded in friendship. All three say they remain steadfastly committed to seeing more women in the commercial real estate industry, especially at senior levels, the level they occupy—in the boardrooms and the C-level suites. Their first Toronto CREW meeting in 1996 was in a meeting room at an athletic club at Wellington and York.
More and more women are arriving, largely through MBA streams, but also with the help of a three-level Toronto CREW program that starts with career days for grade 11 girls, then scholarships, and finally mentorship for post-secondary grads. Danny says “that’s the one thing I am most proud of. It makes my heart sing.” Still, all agreed that women--when offered opportunities for advancement in the industry, need to say “yes” more, and figure out the details of the job later. Danny tells us this is the main message she gives her mentees. Another tip: Women need to self-promote more. In the image is a recent CREW event.
New Toronto CREW president, McCarthy Tetrault partner Tara Piurko (right), and past president Samantha Farrell, a VP of leasing at Dundee. Danny got the idea for a Toronto chapter after seeing a colleague present at a Seattle CREW event in 1995. The first event, to the surprise of all, attracted 55 women. Before launching Toronto CREW, the focus of their meetings was on leasing, but all four founders wanted a new organization for women that was multi-disciplinary, that was educational for young women, and had a philanthropic component. These days, major industry corporations sponsor their events, and membership is around 200.