I wonder how many men in the C-suite think about their daughters entering the commercial real estate industry and the lack of women executive role models that exist?
I can’t claim a daughter in the business, but my son works as an analyst. I remember when he was fresh out of college and he told me that his friend Nicole was coming over to our house. I thought it might be a young woman he was interested in as a girlfriend. When I waggled my eyebrows about it, he said “No, Mom, it’s not like that. She’s a friend. I don’t think of her as a girl. She’s a friend, same as my guy friends.”
First, I was a little ashamed for jumping to conclusions. Second, I was proud of my son for building relationships with people and not labeling them in any way. His generation is coming of age in a difficult time; but also, a time when relationships are not distinguished by gender, race, ethnicity or origin. His circle of friends is wide and varied.
So, this is the lesson my son taught me and what gives me hope for the future: There is a generation of young men who view women as their equals—equally talented, equally able, equal in all things. They will not have the same bias or perspective as their predecessors.
In the next five to seven years, the commercial real estate industry will see a mass exodus of baby boomers—many of them men in C-suite roles. The men coming after them, and those as young as my son, have a different mindset about women. They view them as equals. They may be husbands and fathers who share more of the home responsibilities than our fathers did. They will have come up through the ranks with women colleagues and business partners. They, too, will have women friends who they consider just friends—regardless of gender.
I am hopeful that these young men, with their different experiences and perspectives, will be the catalyst for change in the industry. They will value and promote the best and brightest regardless of gender. They will sponsor, mentor and fast-track the amazing and talented women in the industry. And finally, more women will be in C-suite roles. They will be the role models for young women coming into the business. Women will have equal opportunity, equal pay and equal leadership roles. It took an offhand comment from my son for me to see brighter days ahead.
Wendy Mann is the chief executive officer of Commercial Real Estate Women (CREW) Network and president of the CREW Network Foundation.
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