CRE Gender Bias Still Prevalent

Julie Sorensen, Director  GRS | Corteq  (312) 476-7658

Julie Sorensen, Director
GRS | Corteq
(312) 476-7658

Believe it or not, we still live in a world when, sometimes during a conference-room work meeting, the lone woman in the room, even if she is an executive, is expected to grab coffee for the others!

This and other findings are detailed in the Commercial Real Estate Women (CREW) Network’s 10th annual white paper on women in the Commercial Real Estate  industry, called “Closing the Gap: Addressing Gender Bias and Other Barriers for Women in Commercial Real Estate.” Besides the expectation of women getting meeting beverages, 65% of professionals  (1100 surveyed with 88% women) have personally experienced or observed gender bias against women in their commercial real estate workplace in the past 5 years. 

Following the release of the 2015 Benchmark Study Report: Women in Commercial Real Estate, CREW Network focused on digging deeper into issues that persist and stymie women’s advancement in commercial real estate in its 2016 white paper. The paper details both statistical data and personal accounts previously unmeasured and unrecorded in our industry – and largely unaddressed.

The study covers five areas of focus:

  • Unconscious bias, discrimination and micro-aggressions
  • Ageism
  • Effects of bias in the workplace
  • The aspiration gap displayed by women
  • Mentoring and sponsorship 

Besides barriers to advancement in their positions, women also feel as though their male colleagues in commercial real estate ignore their ideas in meetings (even though people are more than happy to take credit for those ideas). Further, these same male colleagues often do not include women in networking events with clients and fail to involve them in decision-making.

In addition, income gaps range from 23 percent to about 30 percent, with men being higher, depending on the seniority of their positions.

What’s reportedly mostly to blame is gender bias, which seems like a no brainer, but it goes much deeper than what some people might think. This is not always blatant sexual harassment. Some of this bias, termed “Unconscious Bias” is an ingrained expectation for women to act like stereotypical 1950s homemakers. This can result in “micro aggressions” such as interrupting female colleagues, or assumptions of inferiority, such as more scrutiny given to female-presented ideas than those of men.

CREW’s 2015 Benchmark study revealed a clear aspiration gap between women and men in Commercial Real Estate: While 40% of men aspire to the C-Suite, only 28% of women share that aspiration. Digging deeper into the rationale for this aspiration gap, the 2016 survey found that 32 percent of women surveyed that they lack support either at home or in the workplace to thrive in a C-suite environment, and 26 percent commented that a C-suite job would not allow them to fulfill personal responsibilities.

So what can the Commercial Real Estate Industry do to promote women’s advancement and parity?

One step the report suggests is for firms to be honest about bias in hiring, promoting and compensation practices.  They need to better recognize bias, take action to overcome it and adopt accountability measures. Secondly, corporate culture, driven by management, needs to support women in the workplace and speak up when biases or unfair treatment is observed. Finally, all companies should make mentoring and sponsorship of women a priority.

In a world that is increasingly connected—and where specialized skill sets are vital—discrimination against gender (as with race, sexual orientation and age) is not only inappropriate but also inefficient. Hopefully companies won’t wait until their bottom lines are impacted before being more proactive about inclusiveness.

Julie Sorensen GRS Group Director is proud to be a member of CREW Network, the leading producer of research on women in commercial real estate.  Julie is a past board member of CREW Chicago and Co-chair of CREW Network’s 2017 Industry Research committee. The full 2016 white paper can be obtained at:

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