By: Ericka Miller, Sr VP, KimbleCo & 2019 MNCREW President
The first annual Minnesota Real Estate Journal’s Women in Commercial Real Estate Summit left me feeling quite inspired and I am looking forward to attending the 2nd annual event on May 9th. Last year the day began with women who started in this industry when not many women were involved. The overwhelming theme was simple; they didn’t think about it, didn’t necessarily consider they were the only ones or one of the few. They were and still are successful because they loved what they did. They often didn’t notice some of the inequities until they were hooked on their careers and it was too late to turn around.
These inspiring women took the leap into commercial real estate before women were really truly welcome, experienced bias throughout their career but the focus of their discussion was not on this – it was on why they loved what they do and why women should continue to pursue careers in commercial real estate.
To expand on the positivity of these women pioneers, I’ve put together a short list of why it’s great to be a woman in commercial real estate and why you should have them on your team:
Women are in the minority. I truly see this as an opportunity. Being in the minority can be a huge advantage! Thinking differently than most of our peers, asking questions from a new perspective, and finding alternative solutions based on not only unique life experiences but also based on how we view the world puts us in a great position to add true value to our teams and business overall. Having a woman on your team and in leadership roles can often provide a leg up on the competition as more and more buyers are finding great success and value in diverse teams.
Band of Sisters (and Brothers). Almost 20 years ago I joined Minnesota Commercial Real Estate Women (MNCREW) which is just one chapter of CREW Network (now a global organization consisting of over 11,000 respected, professional women and men). The CREW Network Foundation is the only organization dedicating its resources solely towards transforming the commercial real estate industry by advancing women globally. Outside of having met some of my best friends through these organizations, they provide me with a broad network of professionals in all disciplines of commercial real estate. What other organization within commercial real estate offers this kind of network? Please note – not only can you be a member if you are a man – we encourage it!
Passion. Passion for the business is what drives my work in commercial real estate – and my guess it is what drives my peers as well. Ok – passion for the business is not specific to women but if we don’t diversify, elevate diversity through the highest ranks in our business and continue to evolve does passion stick around? One of the factors human resource professionals use to measure the productivity of employees is engagement. Companies tend to show higher rates of employee engagement when those employees feel included and work on diverse teams. A Gallup blog entitled Using Employee Engagement to Build a Diverse Workforce cited a study that found gender diversity predicted the financial success of business units in two independent companies. The combination of employee engagement and gender diversity resulted in 46% to 58% higher financial performance — comparable revenue and net profit, respectively — for business units above the median on both engagement and gender diversity, compared with those below the median on both. Engage and Diversify – keep the passion flowing!
Strengthen your team. Women are drivers, organizers, and leaders by nature. Throughout history we have been at the center of life, leading families, driving for change, organizing larger causes and taking charge whether it be at work or home or both. Study after study show that women are much more likely to apply for a job only if they believe they meet all of the requirements – which means you can generally assume female applicants are likely to be even more prepared for the role in which you need to fill. As women, we are constantly being told to be bolder, lean in, take the reins yet when we do, we are often told to hold on, pull back, stop being so aggressive. Teams and companies who can question themselves and think twice about how this is perceived when working with women in a professional setting will be much more successfully diverse and have stronger outcomes.
Be part of the Movement. According to CREW Network’s 2017 white paper entitled Best Practices for Gender Equity and Inclusion in Commercial Real Estate, women make up 35% of professional workforce in commercial real estate in the US but only occupy 9% of C-Suite positions. Women are working to change this by stepping up, out of their comfort zones, daring to fail and being bold. We all hear a lot about the need for more diversity, for equal pay and the struggle for women to rise to the top in the commercial real estate world. All of these issues are incredibly important for many reasons, not the least of which is that companies do better (more profitable, innovative and productive) when diversity and inclusion are part of the fabric of the company rather than just part of the discussion.
Seeing the commercial real estate industry become more diverse and inclusive starts with each one of us. Be the woman who steps up to get that next promotion or offers to speak on the next panel, be the man who joins MNCREW/CREW Network, and be the leader in your company who hires or finds a smart woman within the company, specifically sponsors her and helps ensure her voice is being heard and elevated. You won’t regret it!