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CREW report: Myths still hindering women’s progress in commercial real estate

You’re a woman working in the commercial real estate industry. You dream of one day running your own firm. You dream of reaching the heights of your profession.

Is pay as important to you as it is to your male colleagues? Are you as willing to take risks — the reasonable ones — as the man in the cubicle next door?

The answers to those two questions seem obvious. Of course, successful women in this field are willing to take risks to close the big deals. And of course they want to be every bit as well-compensated as are their male counterparts.

Unfortunately, many in commercial real estate still don’t understand this. This is the conclusion of a recent white paper by CREW Network — formerly known as Commercial Real Estate Women — that outlined several of the more pervasive myths hindering women who are attempting to reach the highest levels of their profession. The paper, Success and Satisfaction of Women in Commercial Real Estate: Retaining Exceptional Leaders, found that many in commercial real estate still believe that compensation is not as important to women as it is to men and that women are less willing than their male counterparts to take risks.

And both of these myths, in addition to others, are hampering women in what is still a largely male-dominated field.

“I still think women face real challenges in this industry,” said Amy Mistler, 2012 CREW-St. Louis president and a transactional real estate attorney with the law firm of Spencer Fane Britt & Browne, a firm that has offices in Kansas City; St. Louis; Omaha; Overland Park, Kan.; and Jefferson City, Mo. “I’ve been practicing for nearly 13 years. I’ve been in CREW for about 10. I can’t say that we have many more women in C-suite positions today than we had 10 years ago.”

And that’s the real challenge that women face in commercial real estate. There are exceptions, of course. But women tend to struggle to break into the highest-level of executive positions in this industry.

The myths are getting in the way. If commercial real estate professionals believe that women aren’t willing to take risks, they might not think that they have the bravery needed for the C-suite level. If they believe that women are willing to take lower salaries they might not think, again, that they have the business savvy to thrive at the highest levels of a commercial real estate firm.

“These all influence a woman’s progression in a company or firm,” Mistler said. “If everyone assumes that women care about certain things and men care about others, you can see how that would impede progress to the top ranks of a firm. We see that women tend to make it to a certain point, just below the C-suite level. Moving into the C-suite seems to be the challenge.”

It would be wrong to suggest that women haven’t made amazing gains in the commercial real estate world. But it’d be equally as wrong to suggest that they’re working on a level playing field with their male counterparts.