Women in Commercial Real Estate: 2015

The latest CREW Network study data can help guide women striving to advance their careers in the industry, and inform companies and managers about the values and priorities of their employees.

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With the release of its third comprehensive benchmark study, CREW Network has measured progress for women in commercial real estate over an unprecedented 10-year span, tracking and analyzing specialization, compensation and career achievement by gender. This long-term project has been made possible by the support of CBRE, premier underwriter of the 2005, 2010 and 2015 reports.

CREW Network’s 10-year research span reflects a remarkable diversity of positions and specializations within the commercial real estate industry. Respondents spanned entry-level to C-Suite positions and represent all major specializations within the field – asset and property management, brokerage and sales, development and financial services.

The 2015 study included the same questions as the 2005 and 2010 studies to guarantee data integrity and consistency. Survey respondents revealed important gains made by women in the industry, as well as areas where inequalities persist.

The latest CREW Network study data can help guide women striving to advance their careers in the industry, inform companies and managers about the values and priorities of their employees and enhance the research and program agenda for CREW Network and other like-minded organizations striving for equality. Highlights and key findings of the 2015 study follow.


Though the income differences between men and women are shrinking, a significant income gap still exists. In 2015, the median total annual compensation, including bonuses, compensation and profit sharing, was $150,000 for men and $115,000 for women in commercial real estate. This income gap of 23.3 percent demonstrates that North America still has a long way to go to achieve gender wage parity.

The income gap widens with years of experience and position, with the difference most pronounced between women and men in the C-Suite and within the brokerage and development specializations.

The 2008-09 Recession resulted in a decline in the willingness of both men and women to accept commission-based work. In 2015, men have become more open to commissioned positions, while women have remained in primarily salaried positions.

Experience and Position

Men continue to outnumber women in C-Suite positions (17 percent of men surveyed versus 9 percent of women). While consistent with the previous study results, the relative difference is shrinking.

Women in commercial real estate are closer to the C-Suite than ever. More senior-level or higher roles were filled by women in 2015, with the exception of Brokerage/Sales/Leasing.

Trends in CRE Compensation

Across the board, when respondents take jobs with new companies, it is largely for economic or professional reasons – most notably because a position offers better compensation or opportunity for advancement. When offered a new opportunity with their current employer, women respondents are more likely than men to accept lateral moves within their companies.

A notable improvement from prior CREW Network studies: In 2015 the percentage of women with direct reports was equal to that of men. While men’s direct reports were evenly split on the basis of gender, 62 percent of the direct reports to women managers were also women.

Success and Satisfaction

Women’s satisfaction with career success is now – for the first time in CREW Network’s surveying – exactly equivalent to men’s. The 2010 results showed that women tended to report higher levels of satisfaction at earlier phases of their careers. To better understand this trend, we asked respondents which position they aspired to at the peak of their career. Women were most likely to choose Senior Vice President (47 percent), while the most common answer for men was aspiring to the C-Suite (40 percent).

Between 2010 and 2015, gains were also reported for women in their satisfaction with work/life balance in their lives. For men, responses regarding work/life balance have generally remained constant since 2005.

CRE Professionals: Top Contributing Factors to Future Success

Overall, women are less satisfied than men with the job factors they consider most important, including job enjoyment, time spent with family, and maximizing earnings potential. One key difference is that men are more satisfied than women with the time with family their job allows them, while they both scored them as equally important.

In 2010, both men and women identified stagnating promotional opportunities as critical barriers to career success. The latest study data shows that more persistent issues like lack of mentorship and concern regarding work/life balance continue to be ranked highly as barriers to success across genders today – and increasingly so among men.

In 2015, women respondents viewed relationships with internal senior executives as the No. 1 factor supporting future advancement and listed the lack of a company mentor/sponsor as the No. 1 barrier to career success.

Setting the Agenda

The 2015 benchmark survey findings indicate that women in commercial real estate have achieved equal or close-to-equal standing as men in many aspects. However, consistent with the two previous benchmark studies, these results also point to the areas where there is room for progress.

The largest inequalities observed are in the income gap and the low numbers of women in C-Suite positions. Negotiation skills continue to be important, but this year’s results and other studies published in the past five years suggest there is a need to take action at the corporate management level to address the persistent bias against female advancement. Additionally, while women recognize the importance of mentors and sponsors, finding them within their companies continues to be a challenge.

CRE Professionals: Top Barriers to Success

As a consequence to these barriers, our survey found that women are less likely to aspire to C-Suite positions. While women continue to strive for parity, the industry itself – organizations, companies and decision-makers – will also benefit from proactively acknowledging, supporting, promoting, recognizing and rewarding women’s full potential.


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


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