A Catalyst for Change: COVID-19's Impact on Women in Commercial Real Estate


Supporting and Advancing Women While Recovering from the Pandemic

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COVID-19 sent shockwaves through the workforce.  Research shows women—especially women of color—have been negatively impacted.  One in four women have considered stepping out  or  stepping  back  from  the  workplace.  Women lost $800 billion USD in income in 2020, more than the combined GDP of 98 countries. The wait for parity on a global scale has lengthened by 135.6 years.

In commercial real estate, the COVID-19 pandemic presented  new  challenges  for  women  and  stalled their progress in the industry. Yet it also presented new opportunities to change the  industry  culture  and  remove persistent workplace barriers. CREW Network’s latest industry research paper, A Catalyst for Change: COVID-19’s Impact on Women in Commercial Real Estate, examines the pandemic’s impact on women globally and in the industry, especially women of color.

In Numbers: Impact on Commercial Real Estate Professionals
The following insights were taken from CREW Network’s July 2021 survey of 1,018 commercial real estate professionals across 25+ specializations and 10+ sectors in the United States, United Kingdom and Canada:

Job Loss

  • 24% of survey respondents said that women in their work location left voluntarily
  • 12% left or lost their job
  • 78% were forced to leave
  • 22% left voluntarily
  • 97% identified as women
  • 27% identified as Latinx
  • 16% identified as Black
  • 9% identified as White
  • 7% identified as Asian

Compensation and Deals

  • 54% said that they missed out on deals in 2020
  • 39% said their compensation increased
  • 37% compensation stayed the same
  • 23% compensation decreased

Career Satisfaction

  • 53% said their career satisfaction increased
    • 51% of women vs. 62% of men
  • 47% said their career satisfaction decreased
    • 47% of women vs. 35% of men

Stalled Progress for Women

  • 38% believe the pandemic stalled progress for women
  • 32% believe it derailed progress for women/set them back
  • 16% believe the pandemic had little or no impact on women
  • 14% believe it leveled the playing field for women

A Shift in Priorities

  • 50% said their career priorities have changed
    • 52% of women and 32% of men
  • 74% said their personal priorities have changed
    • 90% of women and 62% of men

Changes in the CRE Workplace

  • 70% of companies created new employee work policies as a result of the pandemic
  • 68% of employees favor flexible work arrangements
  • 50% of employees believe their companies will continue to offer increased work flexibility post-pandemic
  • 17% of employees will actively seek to work for a company that has flexible work arrangements

While half of the CRE professionals surveyed said that their career priorities changed as a result of the pandemic, 9 out of 10 women said their personal priorities changed. Hundreds of survey comments cited the immediate need for better work/life balance, a stronger focus on self-care and mental health, and more flexible work arrangements.

Action Items for Company Leaders
The paper also provides an action guide for industry and company leaders to support and advance women as we recover from the pandemic, and equips women with strategies to navigate and overcome career challenges—and continue forward progress in advancing their careers.

Actions company leaders can take now to support and advance women as we recover from the pandemic and restore the workforce:

  1. Create and maintain inclusive, and high-trust cultures that support women. Build environments where women feel confident reporting non-inclusive behaviors—and to do so without fear of career penalty.
  2. Demonstrate a visible and measurable leadership commitment to gender equality. Commit to gender representation at the senior level and provide development opportunities for women.
  3. Normalize flexible working. Enable a better work-life balance in which women feel supported by employers in balancing work and home commitments.
  4. Acknowledge that women of color face a different set of barriers than white women. Ensure that all women experience equal access to opportunities, pay, and recognition.
  5. Continue to focus on recruiting women of color—and retaining them. Partner with university programs and historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs), and organizations such as CREW Network to seek out diverse talent.
  6. Conduct employee pay equity tests regularly to identify disparities in compensation by gender and ethnicity.
  7. Partner with CREW Network to support industry-leading gender equity and DEI efforts, conduct critical research, develop enriching industry education and leadership development, and advance women.

How You Can Help
You can help advance this research and accelerate women mid- and post-pandemic in the following ways:

  1. Share this research with your company leaders, including your HR leaders and top executives
  2. Share it on social media
  3. Partner with other industry and business organizations to host an event/program on this topic in your market

CREW Network members also have access to a marketing toolkit to promote this research and use in hosting an event or program. The toolkit includes a PowerPoint presentation, social media posts, images and more.

CREW Network, the leading producer of research on gender and diversity in commercial real estate, develops research papers annually and publishes a benchmark study every five years to provide valuable industry data and insights focused on gender equity and diversity and inclusion.

The 2021 research paper was developed by the CREW Network Industry Research Committee with support from Industry Research Program Partner Capital One Commercial Bank. Support our research efforts by donating to the CREW Network Foundation Industry Research Fund.

Special thanks to our Industry Research Program Partner

Capital One Commercial Bank


Laura Lewis
CREW Network Chief Communications Officer
+1 (785) 856-8275

CREW Network, 1201 Wakarusa Dr Ste D, Lawrence, KS 66049 USA
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