Clinton calls for parity in commercial real estate

Former Secretary of State says mentoring, risk-taking keys to growth of women in sector

Oct.October 02, 2014 03:05 PM

To Hillary Rodham Clinton, it’s incumbent upon powerful real estate groups like CREW (or Commercial Real Estate Women) to help “achieve parity” in the industry.

The former First Lady and Secretary of State called for increased mentoring of younger real estate professionals during her keynote speech on Thursday as part of CREW’s annual Network Convention & Marketplace at the Loews Miami Beach Hotel. More than 1,200 attendees packed the hotel’s ballroom for Clinton’s speech. The overall attendance for the week-long convention set a record for the industry group.

“In commercial real estate I’ve seen progress” in the advancement of women in the sector, Clinton said. But “women still account for only 43 percent of professionals in the field, with far fewer at higher leadership levels. I’ve seen it across the economy; less than 5 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs are women.”

Clinton pointed to CREW’s event theme of “reward for risk” as an important message for female industry professionals to consider.

“Bold choices [offer] big return,” she said. “It’s so important for women like us to get out of our comfort zones and be willing to fail. I’ve done that too on a very large stage.”

According to Clinton, the U.S. gross domestic product would grow by 10 percent over the next 16 years if the present employment and income gaps between men and women are closed. That’s the kind of statistic employers must be made aware of for parity to occur, she said.

“Hard data changed the minds of leaders I interacted with,” Clinton said. “CREW takes a rigorous data-driven approach to the challenges facing women in commercial real estate. The studies it is doing marshal more evidence for why when women succeed, industries succeed.”

For local industry leaders like former CREW-Miami president Maria Juncadella, a vice president and principal at commercial real estate firm Fairchild Partners, Clinton’s call for increased mentoring and risk embracing particularly resonated. In South Florida, a much lower percentage of women work in the real estate industry than the national average Clinton cited, Juncadella told The Real Deal after the speech.

“With the depth and breadth of experience she’s had, her message came across as a direct affirmation that we have to do a lot more” locally, Juncadella said. She noted the “millennial” generation in the sector seems to have more balance between men and women.

“There’s more respect for women now,” she said.

Suzanne Hollander, a real estate professor at Florida International University’s undergraduate and graduate programs, told TRD Clinton’s simple message about being unafraid to ask questions is an important one for younger industry professionals.

“Deals are complicated,” said Hollander, who is also an attorney and broker. “The questions you don’t ask will come back to bite you.”

The annual CREW Network Convention & Marketplace returned to Miami this week for the first time in about 20 years. Founded in 1989, CREW is a real estate networking organization of nearly 9,000 members focused on the advancement of women in commercial real estate.

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