Accelerating the Advancement of Women in Commercial Real Estate

Accelerating the Advancement of Women in Commercial Real Estate

An action guide for companies to advance women in three critical career areas


Businesses benefit by having more women in senior leadership roles, yet women remain underrepresented in all facets of commercial real estate leadership, C-suites and boards. CREW Network’s latest industry research paper, Accelerating the Advancement of Women in Commercial Real Estate, examines three areas where women continue to be underrepresented in the industry—the talent pipeline; senior executive leadership; and at the corporate board level—and presents an action guide to advance women in each of these critical career areas. The publication also identifies the unique barriers women of color face in advancing, and strategies to ensure all women have equal access to opportunities, pay, and recognition.

The research paper presents global and industry-wide research findings, company best practices, and first-person insight from women leaders and male CEOs and top executives in commercial real estate, including Capital One, CBRE, Cushman & Wakefield and Lincoln Property Group.

Key statistics in the research paper drawn from global business research:

  • Companies in the top 25% for gender diversity are 15% more likely to have financial returns above their industry medians

  • Companies in the top 25% for racial and ethnic diversity are 35% more likely to have higher returns.

  • Innovation is six times higher at companies with the most equal workplace cultures

  • Changing board composition to include 30% female representation could add up to six percentage points to a company’s net margin

  • In 2018, more than half of new women directors joined boards that had increased in size

percentage of women in the workforce

Key statistics from CREW Network industry research:

  • In Canada and the U.S., approximately 73% of real estate related degrees (undergraduate and graduate) are obtained by men

  • Women in commercial real estate hold approximately:

    • 54% of mid-level associate and senior positions

    • 27% of SVP, managing director and partner level positions

    • 9% of C-suite positions

  • Women in commercial real estate earn 23.3% less than men

  • 1 in 5 women say that family or marital status has adversely impacted their career or compensation

pipeline of college graduates with real estate degrees


Accelerating Women: An Action Guide

Strengthening the Pipeline of Women into the Industry
To Strengthen the Pipeline of Women into CRE
  • Develop creative compensation models to attract young talent to commission-based careers

  • Partner with local schools and universities to connect with female students about the myriad opportunities in CRE

  • Be more intentional with the hiring process to ensure a more diverse candidate pool

  • Recruit diverse talent from organizations like CREW Network

Advancing Women from Mid-Level to Senior Executive Leadership
To Advance Women from Mid-Level to Senior Executive Leadership
  • Provide women with opportunities for advancement into high-level line and operational roles

  • Challenge women with stretch assignments such as global responsibilities, leading a business line, and contributing to a turnaround or expansion

  • Provide high-potential women with more exposure to senior leadership and boards

  • Develop a sponsorship program for women in your company


Achieving Gender Equity on Your Corporate Board
To Achieve Gender Equity on Your Corporate Board
  • Expand the size of your board

  • Avoid filling open board seats with people already in your personal and professional networks

  • Create more egalitarian board cultures that integrate contrasting insights and welcome conversations from everyone

  • Ensure targets and goals to improve gender representation also include racial representation


Advancing Women of Color
To Advance Women of Color
  • Acknowledge that women of color face a different set of barriers to advancement than white women and aim for all women to experience equal access to opportunities, pay, and recognition

  • Focus on recruiting women of color from university programs and professional organizations

  • Advocate for pay transparency practices, disaggregate pay data by gender and race, and make adjustments if needed

  • Establish unconscious bias training in your company and confront your own bias


CREW Network, the leading producer of research on women 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 2019 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 sponsor

Capital One Commercial Bank


Laura Lewis
CREW Network Chief Communication Officer
+1 (785) 865-8275

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