Closing the Gap: Addressing Gender Bias and Other Barriers for Women in Commercial Real Estate

Addressing Gender Bias and Other Barriers for Women in Commercial Real Estate




Commercial Real Estate Women (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 inform and impact the industry. The 2015 CREW Network Benchmark Study Report: Women in Commercial Real Estate identified important gains made by women in commercial real estate and revealed areas where inequalities persist.

Research findings from the 2015 study indicated positive progress for women in the industry, including:

  • Women’s career satisfaction and feelings of success increased across all industry specializations.
  • Women with higher commission-based pay reported the highest career satisfaction. More women fill senior vice president, managing director and partner positions than ever.
  • The percentage of women with direct reports is now on par with their male counterparts.

Research findings also uncovered the following gender gaps, disparities and potential bias:

  • An aspiration gap exists between men and women in commercial real estate: 28% of women aspire to the C-Suite versus 40% of men.
  • In 2015, the industry median annual compensation was $115,000 for women and $150,000 for men – an average income gap of 23.3%. The income gap was widest in the C-Suite at 29.8%.
  • Women in the 2015 study ranked the lack of mentorship within their company as the #1 barrier to success, scoring the importance of continuing to focus on mentors and sponsors.Bias and other discriminatory practices such as ageism persist. The number of women in commercial real estate with 20+ years of experience is decreasing.

About this Research Paper


Following the release of the 2015 Benchmark Study Report, CREW Network focused on digging deeper into issues that persist and stymie women’s advancement in commercial real estate.

To gather more detailed and anecdotal data on the commercial real estate workplace in 2016, CREW Network conducted an industry research survey and several interviews. A total of 1,019 industry professionals – both men and women – participated in the survey, which included questions about gender bias, compensation practices, mentoring and sponsoring, ageism and the aspiration gap.

Closing the Gap: Addressing Gender Bias and Other Barriers for Women in Commercial Real Estate, CREW Network’s 10th annual research paper, details both statistical data and personal accounts previously unmeasured and unrecorded in our industry – and largely unaddressed.

For example, more than 65% of survey respondents have personally experienced or observed gender bias against women in the commercial real estate workplace in the last five years. Ninety-one percent of respondents said they have not displayed gender bias against a woman as a hirer or manager in the industry.

In addition, nearly 2,200 comments and open-ended responses detailed both positive (mentor success stories, supportive environments and workplace practices) and negative (blatant gender bias, unequal benefits and exclusion) experiences in commercial real estate.

The Compensation and Aspiration Gaps


Women have been largely held responsible for the compensation gap because they don’t ask or have inadequate negotiation skills, but recent research findings shift this burden. A September 2016 study by researchers at London’s Cass Business School, the University of Warwick and the University of Wisconsin found that women do ask for raises as often as their male counterparts, but they get what they want 25% less often.

If women are asking for more, closing the pay gap could be determined by how employers react to women’s increased and improved negotiations – and how transparent their hiring practices are. Sixty-two percent of our 2016 survey respondents believe that if employers were required to share compensation information, pay would be more equitable.

The aspiration gap was more challenging to assess. In our 2016 survey, 32% of respondents believed the lack of support for women in the C-Suite and/or at home to be the number one reason for the aspiration gap in commercial real estate. The second most popular response (26%) was that women believe being in the C-Suite will adversely affect their commitments and responsibilities outside of work.


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


The research paper was written by the 2016 CREW Network Industry Research Committee and made possible by the support of CBRE, industry research premier underwriter, and Cushman & Wakefield | PICOR, associate underwriter.​

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