Lately, I’ve been thinking about men. Weird, right? As the leader of an organization whose mission is to advance women, couched in an industry that has few women at the top, you begin to ponder men.
When I think about male leadership in commercial real estate, I wonder what they think when they hear about CREW Network. Or do they think about CREW Network at all? I have spoken to groups of women over the past three years about our work, particularly our research, and noted the proven value and bottom line results for companies when women are in senior executive and decision-making roles. There are always very few men in the room during these sessions. They just don’t show up. I am preaching to the choir.
The women in the room know the reality of the bias they face, the pay inequity and the lack of sponsorship support. They do not need to hear my message—they live it.
The men I’ve been thinking about are the C-Suite leaders in commercial real estate companies. It is a fact that change starts at the top. You likely know this and have seen first-hand how a change in leadership can change culture. I’ve often said that we cannot make change if both women’s and men’s voices are not at the table. We can benchmark all the data, we can talk to one another and acknowledge the challenges, but we cannot change the status quo without the support and commitment from men. If male leaders are not even in the room, how can we even begin the conversation?
The inclination of C-Suite leaders to think of diversity and inclusion as an HR issue is pervasive. However, any significant movement in terms of women gaining greater opportunities in the C-Suite will have to be sanctioned from the top of the organization. It would be tremendously powerful to see commercial real estate CEOs stand up and own responsibility for changing the culture of their companies. When the CEO holds his leadership accountable for identifying and sponsoring women into greater leadership roles, it creates a mandate that matters. That would be walking the talk of diversity.
More importantly, when the CEO sponsors a woman himself, he models the commitment and expectation he has of all of his leaders. It would be a tangible and profound statement that would reverberate throughout the company. When will you start?
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Wendy Mann is the chief executive officer of Commercial Real Estate Women (CREW) Network and president of the CREW Network Foundation.