CREW Corner: Breaking the commercial real estate ceiling
By Misty Moore
Thursday, October 13, 2016
Published data suggests that the top four commercial brokerage firms in San Diego employ somewhere around 200 licensed brokers. Just over a dozen of those brokers are women. Furthermore, within that female population of brokers, just a handful hold senior positions in their firms.
While women have made tremendous strides in commercial real estate brokerage over the last 20 years, why don’t we have more female brokers by now, especially considering the flexible schedule this profession offers?
Research from American Express OPEN Forum shows that female entrepreneurs in our country are on a roll. The growth of women-owned firms continues to outpace the national average, plus they now lead growth in eight of the top 13 industries. Again, why does an essentially entrepreneurial career like commercial real estate brokerage still struggle to close its gender gap?
I’m lucky to work at one of the few brokerage firms in San Diego that has some very accomplished female brokers, and I hope I can channel the supportive culture we have within our firm to encourage other women to consider, and stick with, brokerage.
As a broker, you’re self-employed and responsible for finding clients and closing transactions, and the schedule you craft to be successful is largely up to you. I have the freedom to attend my sons’ performances and games without anyone looking over my shoulder. (This speaks to the leadership and culture at my firm, JLL, where women are not shamed for being dedicated, working mothers.)
Make no mistake, a career in brokerage is an arduous path. You are in demand 24/7, often working long hours, handling stressful transactions and are perpetually on the hunt for new business. It takes years to crack the six-figure barrier and have a respectable transaction pipeline required to maintain and grow this income year over year. Even after 18 years, I am acutely aware of the risks associated in letting my business development efforts slip.
The first five years are the hardest, and it seems this is when we typically lose our young women brokers. I have a hunch this is tied to concerns about starting a family, though brokerage can also be a huge benefit when it comes to maternity leave. I sacrificed very little income while I was on maternity leave with both of my kids. How? Because I had strong leadership that guided me and a solid tenant rep team that I trusted and that supported me. I went back to work after six weeks with my second son, but it’s because I wanted to – I didn’t have to.
In commercial real estate, you have the opportunity to create your own “community” and support network. I’m fortunate to have a handful of other women in my work community – however, I also have men. We all bring different skills and connections to the table, and we leverage these as a team.
This is unique to my company. We do not compete internally. This has been a significant factor in why I have succeeded. I think this type of collaboration really resonates for women. As a tenant rep team, we are all in this together, and we are going to win together. No other brokerage firm has mastered this to the extent we have. If they could, I predict more women would thrive in this profession.
Even without a collaborative culture, I would encourage young women to approach the most successful brokers and ask how you can help them win more business. The trick is, you can’t expect anything in return. Be a sponge, be humble, help others be successful and be willing to learn. Don’t be afraid to tell leadership your goals, no matter how crazy they sound. Have a plan and be tenacious.
From the start of your career, make sure you understand what you have to offer your team and communicate it. Why would others in your office want to work with you? What do you bring to the table? When I started with my current firm, I noticed no one was focusing on downtown, which, at the start of my career in the late 90s, was home to a lot of law firms. I started the Law Firm Practice Group and began chasing law firm work downtown. It was one of my single best career decisions, as I found a wonderful community of women attorneys also climbing to the top. I have enjoyed supporting them on their way up.
Associations like Commercial Real Estate Women (CREW) can also populate your village with referral sources and support among your colleagues.
My colleague, Lynn LaChapelle, who is one of our top producing brokers in San Diego, says, “It’s becoming more of a requirement for our clients to see gender diversity on our teams. As more women assume leadership positions within the profession, women play increasingly important roles in winning new business.”
National leadership in brokerage firms is becoming more aware and supportive of cultivating diversity, and most firms have high profile diversity and inclusion initiatives. But more needs to be done with boots on the ground if these initiatives are to succeed.
As my friend and industry colleague Kellie Hill said, “The path may have been cut when we got here, but we have had to do some ‘machete-ing’ and weed whacking to get it clear, as it certainly was not paved.” I look forward to welcoming the women who will continue to help pave the rest of this clearing path.
Misty Moore is executive vice president at JLL, a CREW San Diego member and a former CREW San Diego board member.
Originally published in The Daily Transcript on October 13, 2016. Read the article HERE.