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This past fall, the CREW Network—the leading organization for women in commercial real estate—released its 2020 CREW Network Benchmark Study: Gender and Diversity in Commercial Real Estate (CRE). Serving as both a wake-up call and call to action to the commercial real estate industry, the study results showed that despite ongoing efforts from women in the industry, parity in the CRE industry has not changed much over the last 15 years.

While women occupy 36.7 percent of the roles in commercial real estate, there has been little progress in the last five years. Looking ahead, the good news is that the CREW study shows a growing generation of young women professionals in the industry, and more women occupying brokerage positions than ever before. Of course, more work needs to be done. That same study showed that women continue to earn less than men, with the fixed salary gap between genders now 10.2 percent, and the commission and bonus gap at 55.9 percent.

The commercial real estate industry can help women thrive both personally and professionally. Given the diverse nature of commercial real estate, women are perfectly suited to succeed and thrive in this industry.

Let me explain. First, women, by nature, are nurturing people. There is nothing more rewarding than helping clients reach desired outcomes personalized to their unique needs. Women are detail-oriented, thoughtful, insightful and passionate—and they have the innate ability to multi-task.

While I faced some challenges early on in my commercial real estate career, I remained focused. I always approached it with Stephen Covey’s “Begin with the end in mind” attitude to achieve my top goal: to be successful in CRE and be taken seriously by industry leaders and my peers. Early on in my career, I worked diligently to obtain the CCIM designation, which involved extensive education, closing the required volume and passing a lengthy, comprehensive exam. This achievement was imperative to gain encyclopedic knowledge of multiple disciplines within the industry as well as demonstrate my abilities to property owners and other practitioners.

If you are a woman thinking about a career in commercial real estate, seek education from notable industry organizations like the SIOR (Society of Industrial and Office REALTORS®) and the CCIM (Certified Commercial Investment Member) Institute. I also strongly recommend obtaining the CCIM designation.

Of course, like an investor looking at a potential property asset, a woman considering commercial real estate as a career should look at the return on their investment. Like investing, when you’re analyzing the investment costs, or the costs of the dirt, the land and construction against your return, a new practitioner needs to “pencil out” the costs and ensure they have enough money to carry them through the first year. Getting started will take time and money. The last thing a new practitioner needs is to be worrying about money and paying household bills. That said, while costs could be significant, so is the potential profit margin in the future.

Commercial real estate is an incredible industry, and while I do believe that women are making real strides, we could use more of us in the business—especially in the industrial sector.

Heather Konopka, CCIM, is an agent with CENTURY 21 Mike Bowman, Inc. For more information, please visit