Recent headlines depict women as bumping into a ‘glass ceiling’ in their quest for corporate success. Does this apply to women in commercial real estate also? The glass ceiling is described as a barrier “so subtle that it is transparent, yet so strong that it prevents women from moving up the corporate hierarchy.” From their vantage point on the corporate ladder, women can see the high-level corporate positions but are kept from “reaching the top” (Breaking the Glass Ceiling).
In the commercial real estate world, a New York Times recently published article indicated that women now hold 43% of commercial real estate positions worldwide. Most women don’t start out at the top, they step their way up to their current positions. Bradford’s Dallas/Fort Worth commercial real estate team includes several that worked their way up. Melanie Hughes, senior vice president – office leasing, started out in a commercial title company 38 years ago and transitioned into leasing. Leigh Richter, executive vice president, started out in property management before getting her real estate license. Tammy Salas, senior property manager, began her real estate career as an administrative assistant and transitioned to a property manager. Susan Singer, executive vice president – brokerage, has over 29 years in CRE.
The biggest challenge for women?
“The biggest challenge starting out in commercial real estate is the sheer amount of time spent on personal professional advancement and education,” stated Tammy Salas. Melanie states that her biggest challenge as “my age”. “I was in my early twenties, and until I hit 30, I felt like I was perceived as being a bit green, inexperienced.”
With the face of CRE changing, the key to success for women is mentorship, networking, and bringing your talent to the table. Find mentors – both male and female – join professional organizations, but most of all don’t be afraid to show up. “Survey the market, ask for the right salary, don’t shortchange yourself,” says Tammy. “That has been one of my mistakes – allowing another to tell me my worth instead of me recognizing my own worth. Know your goals and make sure your supervisor(s) are aware of them and their vision is in line to help you get where you need to be. Get a mentor who can help you advance and help others recognize your talent.”
Susan recommends joining an organization that providing opportunities for networking, education, leadership development, such as Commercial Real Estate Women (CREW). These types of networks provide access to direct access to real estate professionals across all geographies and disciplines.
Diversity in the workplace
“Diversity requires us to be more mindful and accommodating towards people of various cultures.” Says Melanie. “I don’t perceive this as negative or think that it has affected my career; except where there might be a language barrier that challenges communication. Diversity also brings about a wider range of age groupings into the marketplace; forcing building owners to stay ahead of quickly changing trends, while accommodating more traditional tenants and clients.”
With the increase in the number of women in the workplace, (especially younger women), comes a greater emphasis on the work/family equation. More employers are focusing more and more on offering flexible hours and schedules for young mothers. These changes are allowing more women to break that “glass ceiling” and take their career to the next level.