The Advancement of Women In Commercial Real Estate

The recent announcement of the merger of The Association of Real Estate Women (AREW) and the New York Commercial Real Estate Women group (NYCREW) is a sign of a consolidation of power in a notoriously male-dominated industry. And, while there’s still a long uphill battle to fight towards equality, maintaining this type of unity in terms of both philosophy and purpose is of the utmost importance in the attempt to make a lasting impact.

Over the course of the past few decades, the ratio of men to women working in the commercial real estate industry has not changed much. As it stands right now, women represent a mere 10 percent of all commercial real estate brokers in the country. So, why is this number so low, especially when considering the relatively “progressive” times we are living in in 2015? “It’s a tough business where you have to be strong, you have to have a lot of confidence, and you need a lot of connections and resources to succeed.” Those are the words of Faith Hope Consolo, chairwoman of Douglas Elliman’s retail group who will also serve as the chairwoman for the newly formed group, which will be known as CREW New York. As one of the most successful women in the industry, she knows first hand what it takes to go against the grain and break down barriers.

When Consolo first started in the industry, she was forced to join the “Young Men’s Real Estate Association,” as there wasn’t a networking group for women. What’s most important to note about Consolo’s decision, though, is not the lack of an appropriate group for her to join, but the fact that she unflinchingly integrated herself in with the men. This is just one demonstration of the unrelenting courage she possesses, which has played a huge part in getting her to the place where she is today.

Other successful women in the industry all have the same advice to impart on those looking to follow in their footsteps. Courage is required, above all else. “Women believe in networking and helping each other become successful,” says Cyndi Light, SVP and partner of Coldwell Banker Commercial Sudweeks Group Retail Division. She also mentions that she feels fortunate to be part of her company mentor program, which allows her to give her years of expertise and knowledge to younger female associates; helping them navigate through their chosen career.  

The formation of CREW New York is the next step in a series that should see women assuming a larger role in the industry as time goes on. Its existence will boost membership from 350 to around 500, as well as making it easier to recruit new members, who won’t be torn by having to choose between the two groups. It will also allow them to consolidate their resources and better compete for sponsorship dollars. As a result, they will be able to provide more quality educational and mentorship programs, in addition to the events and networking opportunities offered to members.

In terms of the Consolo “formula for success” in the industry (confidence, connections, and resources) CREW New York will be able to supply the latter two to its members. With reference to the confidence part, that’s the responsibility of each woman attempting to enter the industry to cultivate for themselves. As with any other movement that has inspired change on a mass scale, courage to fight for that change is the most potent ingredient. Excuses, on the other hand, are not acceptable.

Moving forward, as women continue to infiltrate the commercial real estate industry, taking hold of whatever silver linings are present is of the utmost importance with regards to manufacturing the courage necessary to inspire success and enact change.