Genders Differ on How Much Commercial Real Estate Has Improved for Women

July 11, 2019

The commercial real estate industry has made strides to include more women in leadership positions, but men and women disagree on the extent of the progress, according to the Apto National Broker Buzz Poll. More men than women tend to believe there’s been more progress. Also, women tend to think teams should be gender-balanced, whereas men tend to be neutral on the issue and don’t believe that a team’s success depends on its gender makeup, the poll showed.

“While most respondents agreed that the industry has made improvements in the way it treats women—and this is something we should celebrate—the representation of women in broker roles and leadership positions still remains low,” says Angela Tucci, the CEO of Apto, a commercial real estate software company. “Just like in the tech industry, we should be pleased that workplace gender relations are generally getting better, but we should aspire to achieve greater inclusivity and even further diversity.”

Public real estate companies are adding more women to their boards, marking a notable turnaround for what’s considered mostly a male-dominated leadership industry, The Wall Street Journal reports.

“Real estate remains an old boys’ club, and it’s been slow to change,” Nori Gerardo Lietz, senior lecturer at Harvard Business School, told WSJ. “But it’s changing.” Lietz, a real estate investor, joined the board Mack-Cali Realty Corp. in June.

Boards of real estate investment trusts added 60 new female members—or 50.4% of the 119 new directors—during the 2019 spring season, according to Ferguson Partners, a professional services company. More than half of the newly elected directors—52%—were women during the 2018 proxy period. That marks the first time that more females made up the majority of new board members, the firm says. In 2015, only a quarter of new real estate board members were women.

Still, women are far from gaining the majority. Men still account for eight of every 10 REIT directors, and nearly 10% of REITs have no female directors, Ferguson says.

“Boards that don’t have any women will be increasingly scrutinized and face more pressure to fall in line,” Bill Ferguson, chief executive of Ferguson Partners, told WSJ.

Ferguson has been sponsoring workshops for women who are interested in pursuing board seats. It has also been urging companies to broaden their search and account for more gender diversity.

California has mandated that all publicly traded companies in the state have at least one woman on their boards by the end of this year. By 2021, companies with five directors will be required to have two female board members and companies with six or more directors will be required to have three.

Old Boys’ Club Gives Ground as More Women Join Real Estate Boards,” The Wall Street Journal (July 9, 2019) [Log-in required.] and “Industry Has Improved for Women, But Men and Women Disagree on How Much,” Real Estate Weekly (July 10, 2019)