Commercial Real Estate (CRE) is a highly competitive industry that is equal parts stimulating, frustrating, lucrative, exhausting and entertaining. Working as a female in a male-dominated industry can include a variety of obstacles that men would not normally experience. For example, working in CRE, females can be mistaken for an assistant or an office administrator when they are licensed and working as a commercial broker. For most women, to be taken seriously as a CRE Broker means they must strategically navigate their way through the male-dominated industry.
Here are a few helpful tips for women working as a Broker in Commercial Real Estate
- Be Confident– Women may face communication challenges when it involves voicing their opinion or speaking up in a business setting. They are often characterized as being moody, arrogant, hostile or emotional. We also have the added pressure of working under a microscope. Let all of the stereotypes go! You are a real estate agent/broker just like everyone else in the CRE brokerage industry. Know your facts, do your homework and speak with confidence. Be proud of your work and your position within your company. You are important and should take pride in what you have accomplished
- Network, Network, NETWORK– Become involved in as many networking activities as possible. Business deals and opportunities often come out of interactions outside of the office. Attend the International Council of Shopping Centers Conference (ICSC) and ICSC Next Generation Conference. At these conferences, you have the ability to extend your outreach by making face-to-face introductions and building your business relationships, which will likely turn into future business dealings. Have your business card readily available when attending the meetings and be sure to make it clear what your title is at these meetings, whatever your title may be, make it CLEAR that you are in the meeting as a broker. Another great opportunity for networking is to attend Arizona Women’s Education & Employment meetings. AWEE is a program that is specifically designed to assist women and women owned business. AWEE provides education and resources through business training and workshops, one-on-one counseling and more.
- Be Proactive– Building relationships is vital in the industry. In this male dominated industry, you can’t wait for the invite to what is often referred to as the “gentlemen’s” lunch/happy hour/golf etc. Many times this is where deals are made. Be proactive and ask your colleagues to lunch, coffee or happy hour, BUT be specific when asking. Set the tone before you get to the meeting. For example, “Do you want to meet for coffee Tuesday and we can discuss where else “X” tenant is looking?” Doing this prevents any confusion from your male counterpart about what your intentions are at the meeting. The same goes if/when you are asked by a male colleague to lunch or happy hour, make sure there is a purpose, set the expectations up front.
- Don’t Take it Personally– The industry is often undeniably stereotyped and women are often seen as being sensitive and emotional. This is not the case, but if you do have the tendency to take things personally it will take an emotional and mental toll on you. Not being included can make you feel slighted and can bring out characteristics that are not the most flattering. The more you take things personally, the more challenging it is to build authentic professional relationships. Stay relaxed and learn to laugh at yourself when needed. Take criticism/feedback and grow from the lessons instead of feeling defeated. Listen, remain calm and don’t be quick to respond if provoked by others. Having a thick skin is important, especially if you want to get through your workweek in a less stressful way.
- Create a Support System With Other Women– Female brokers are a rarity in the CRE industry so when you meet a woman, welcome her! It’s most likely that we all have faced some of the same challenges when working in the industry. Make it a bonding moment. Don’t try and keep other women brokers down to retain your own status. Embrace the new faces and look up to the women who have paved the way for women. Invite other women brokers to lunch or happy hour and create a comfortable, friendly environment amongst each other. Continue outreach in order to put a face to the names of our female counterparts in the CRE industry. We are ALL working towards the same goals in the industry, so why not support each other along the way?
As women, we have the ability and potential to contribute so many positive qualities to a male dominated industry like Commercial Real Estate. These Five Tips will benefit not only women with navigating through the industry, but for male brokers to become aware of the struggles women may be facing daily as CRE brokers. The way in which we all treat women in the workplace is a key component to boosting not only our own industry’s success, but our entire economy. A diverse brokerage drives better business results with more creativity and innovation.
Vice President Senior Associate