Women breaking the commercial real estate glass ceiling

More and more women are joining the ranks of Miami’s commercial realtors

Nov.November 23, 2010 10:44 AM

While commercial real estate, especially in Miami, has been a bit of a boys’ club, a host of firms are showing that the barrier is slowly breaking down.

Today, some of the city’s top commercial real estate brokerages are led by women, many of whom honed their skills at established firms like Cushman & Wakefield and Codina Bush Klein.

“We’ve accelerated the pace, and it might be that we’re about to see a transformation in the landscape of women in commercial real estate,” said Tere Blanca, who opened her namesake commercial real estate firm two years ago.

Blanca, along with several other realtors, said commercial real estate could see a shift similar to what the legal profession experienced.

“When I started in 1989, I didn’t really recognize the barrier,” said Carol Brooks, who is the president and co-founder of Continental Real Estate Companies, a full-service commercial real estate firm. “Maybe I was too naïve, but when I think back on it, more often than not I was the only woman who had a viable seat at the table.”

According to a national study commissioned by the trade group Commercial Real Estate Women Network, women are entering commercial real estate as new hires at a faster pace than five years ago, at a rate of 43 percent this year, compared to just 36 percent in 2005.

The study was administered by the Cornell University Program in Real Estate to over 2,900 individuals in the industry.

“Commercial real estate has historically been male-dominated,” said Hank Klein, a veteran of the industry and vice chairman at Blanca Commercial Real Estate. “Commercial real estate has essentially mirrored society — if you looked at other areas of work, I would say we probably mirrored that over time.”

Blanca, too, says she was often the only woman at the table starting out, and that hasn’t fully changed.

“We certainly have seen more women enter not only the transaction advisory side, but also the asset management side of the business, and I think that is a direct result of women being more aware of the opportunities that exist in the industry,” she said.

The wage gap is narrowing slightly. According to the CREW findings, in 2005, just 8 percent of women surveyed were at the $250,000 wage level, but that figure has increased to 11 percent this year.

In another major shift, Brooks said more women are changing their career view — from one of administrative to executive.

“When I take an honest look at my own company, most of the women who have leadership roles here did not walk in with leadership roles,” Brooks said. “They were cultivated from within.”
Many viewed themselves as more administrative-oriented, Brooks said — as salespeople, but not executive material, and only changed when they learned, through the firm’s corporate culture, that these limitations didn’t really exist.

Not enough work has been done to drive that message home, though.

“We have to do some [more] work in delivering that message,” Brooks said.

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