Diversity: The Business Advantage

Best Practices for Gender Equity and Inclusion in Commercial Real Estate


Industry Gender Gaps

Commercial real estate is a male-dominated industry. Women represent approximately 35% of the commercial real estate workforce in the United States and 37% in Canada. The gender wage gap is also a factor. The industry median annual compensation for women in 2015 was $115,000, compared to $150,000 for men—an average gap of 23.3%. 

An aspiration gap also exists between men and women in commercial real estate. Specifically, 40% of males aspire to the C-Suite, compared to 28% of women. The majority of women (47%) indicated in the 2015 study that their aspirations topped out at the SVP/Partner level.

Women in the industry consider the lack of a mentor or sponsor within their company as the number one barrier to success. Women in commercial real estate are 54% less likely than men to have a sponsor—an individual who can provide career advice and actively help advance a career path.

About This Research Paper

Following the release of its 2015 Benchmark Study Report, CREW Network focused its research on barriers that persist for women’s advancement in commercial real estate. Released in 2016, the research paper, Closing the Gap: Addressing Gender Bias and Other Barriers for Women in Commercial Real Estate, detailed statistical data and personal accounts of gender bias, compensation practices, mentoring and sponsoring, and the aspiration gap.

While the 2016 research paper uncovered barriers and challenges for women in the industry, it also identified employers and leaders who are getting gender equity right. Testimonials detailed supportive work environments, outstanding employee networks and groups, inclusive and flexible policies, and leaders who made gender equity a clear business priority.

Miles & Stockbridge Women's Network
Attendees at the showing of the movie, Girl Rising, sponsored by the Miles & Stockbridge Women’s Network and the firm's Social Impact Committee.

After reviewing hundreds of testimonials and conducting extensive research, CREW Network selected 10 companies in the commercial real estate industry in Canada, the U.K. and U.S. to profile for case studies in 2017. Each of the companies have benefitted from improvements in gender equity and more diverse workforces. Many have seen increases in profits and stock performance. Others have been more successful in recruiting and retaining women. All have experienced gains from the greater creativity, critical thinking and innovation that comes from diverse teams.

The case studies outline the organizations’ representation of women employees, top executives, and board members. They explore employee programs, networking and interest groups, mentoring and sponsorship programs, and flexible work arrangements. Company sizes ranged from 30 employees to more than 77,000. Even the most admirably inclusive and gender equal companies admit they still have work to do to achieve their stated goals.

While CREW Network’s research agenda is focused on advancing women in the industry, it found that the firms’ efforts expand well beyond gender equity. The companies made overall diversity—the inclusion of different people based on race, ethnicity, and sexual orientation—a business priority. Notable diversity and inclusion initiatives and strategies are also highlighted in the research paper.

Camden's Future Leaders
Camden's future leaders

Tips and Action Items


Each of the companies were asked for advice and tips for improvements in gender equity and diversity efforts, which are included in the case studies. Five similar practices and general themes emerged:

  1. Greater gender equity and diversity start at the very top of your organization. Leaders and stakeholders must be invested and involved to be successful.

  2. Diversity efforts should be written and visible to all employees. Include these objectives in your business plan and on every executive and board meeting agenda to keep them top of mind.

  3. Accountability is key. Success must be measured and lack thereof must be addressed.

  4. Be honest about unconscious biases in all facets of your business practices. Once identified, take quick action to overcome them.

  5. Evaluate your recruiting process. Does your company lean towards hiring through networking or formal application processes? Are diverse hiring pools required?

action items

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.


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

The research paper was produced by the 2017 CREW Network Industry Research Committee and made possible by the support of CBRE. Support our research efforts by donating to the CREW Network Foundation Industry Research Fund.

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