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CRE Opinion

CREW Network Launches Pledge for Action to Advance Women and DEI in Commercial Real Estate

Diane Butler of Butler Advisers encourages every CEO in the CRE industry to sign on and commit to real change.
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Diane Butler of Butler Advisers Billy Surface

CREW (Commercial Real Estate Women) Network has been fighting for women since 1989. In late 2021, this premier business network launched the CRE Pledge for Action, an industry-first, CEO-driven initiative designed to advance women and elevate actions that encourage greater diversity, equity, and inclusion in CRE.

More than 85 CEOs from leading commercial real estate industry companies have already committed. By signing on, these progressive business leaders pledge to act and hold themselves and their employees responsible for implementing initiatives that advance women and DEI.

This relevant, meaningful, and actionable initiative aligns with the significant global transformation. CEOs from leading commercial real estate companies understand they must be proactive and quickly act to address this fundamental issue in the workplace. I applaud those taking part in this ground-breaking initiative and urge more firms to be part of it.

Here are just a few of the industry leaders that have committed to the CREW Network CRE Pledge for Action:

  • Avison Young
  • Brookfield Properties Development
  • CBRE
  • Colliers
  • Cushman & Wakefield
  • Duke Realty
  • JLL
  • Locke Lord
  • NAI Global
  • Newmark
  • Ryan LLC
  • Savills
  • SVN
  • Transwestern

A growing body of research reveals that more substantial business outcomes directly correlate with diverse teams and inclusive workplaces. However, commercial real estate, an industry serving many diverse populations, has a workforce that remains predominately male and white. According to CREW Network, the leading producer of research on gender and diversity in commercial real estate, little progress has been made in the last five years.

In CRE, COVID-19 presented challenges for women and stalled their progress in the industry. Yet it also presented opportunities to change the industry culture and remove persistent workplace barriers. CREW Network’s latest industry research paper, A Catalyst for Change: COVID-19’s Impact on Women in Commercial Real Estate, examined the pandemic’s impact on women globally and in the industry, especially women of color.

The following insights were taken from CREW Network’s July 2021 survey of 1,018 commercial real estate professionals across more than 25 specializations and more than 10 sectors in the United States, United Kingdom and Canada:

  • 54% said they missed out on deals
  • 23% said compensation decreased
  • 78% said they were forced to leave jobs
  • 38% believe the pandemic stalled progress for women
  • 50% said their career priorities have changed
  • 70% of companies created new employee work policies as a result of the pandemic

The 2020 CREW Network Benchmark Study: Gender and Diversity in Commercial Real Estate, conducted in partnership with the MIT Center for Real Estate, had found that women earn 10% less than men in base salaries and 56% less in commission and bonuses annually. Women occupy just 37% of the industry and 9% of C-Suite positions. Additionally, only 16% of CRE workplaces have 25% or more staff that are from diverse backgrounds.

Understanding these disparities and the lack of progress for women and all forms of diversity in commercial real estate, CREW Network is asking pledge signatories to act and improve performance, drive growth and enhance employee engagement. The pledge supports the advancement of women and other individuals in underrepresented groups, including but not limited to race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, ability, religion, and age.

Each signatory has committed to adopting six goals:

  1. Partner with CREW Network to support its mission to transform the industry by advancing women and begin efforts now to make changes.
  2. Close the compensation gap in our industry by conducting a pay equity study in your company.
  3. Increase inclusion through senior executive sponsorship of women and/or other individuals in underrepresented groups within the company.
  4. Advance women to top roles to achieve gender diversity in leadership.
  5. Increase diversity through intentional recruiting and hiring of individuals from diverse backgrounds.
  6. Implement accountability strategies to measure progress.

These are intentional and meaningful goals that will impact the industry. By committing to this pledge, CEOs are taking the steps necessary to drive change and demonstrating that leadership and accountability start at the top. For the CRE industry to become gender-balanced and more diverse, we need the hundreds of CEOs in this industry to commit to diversity.

The CRE Pledge for Action is a step toward advancing women and DEI in the commercial real estate industry. Every CEO in the CRE industry is encouraged to sign on and commit to real change.

Commercial real estate entrepreneur Diane Butler is president of Dallas-based Butler Advisers. She received the Michael F. McAuley Lifetime Achievement Award in 2021, one of the industry’s top annual awards presented by the North Texas Commercial Association of Realtors and Real Estate Professionals.

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