“Lean on,” not in — how to close the gender gap in CRE: panel

"Here's what you do about gender pay gaps. You don't accept them," panelist says

Aug.August 17, 2016 04:40 PM

Clockwise from left: Cynthia Demos, Maria Juncadella, William Schifino Jr., Mayanne Downs, Al Dotson, Barbara Liberatore Black;  Cristina Lumpkin and Schifino; Kimberly Ginsburg, Cynthia J. Stehman, Karyl Argamasilla, Marti Mang, Lyan Fernandez, Juncadella and Lumpkin; and Juncadella, Daniel Zelonker, Milena Wood (Credit: Schwartz Media)

Don’t lean in, lean on.

At least that’s what a group of commercial real estate and legal leaders said about closing the gender gap at a CREW Miami panel on Wednesday. A supportive workplace can make all the difference.

Panelists touted the importance of mentorship, bringing men into the gender conversation, not tolerating gender discrimination in the workplace, and correcting subtle – and not so subtle – sexism.

“Own it and don’t be guilty about it. If you’re going to work, work and embrace it,” Mayanne Downs, president and managing director of Gray Robinson, said on the “Closing the Gender Gap: Old Challenges and New Approaches” panel held at the Four Seasons Miami.

Joining Downs was Barbara Liberatore Black, managing director of Jones Lang Lasalle; Al Dotson, partner at Bilzin Sumberg; Maria Juncadella, principal at Fairchild Partners; and William Schifino Jr., president of the Florida Bar. Cynthia Demos moderated the CREW Commercial Real Estate Women — discussion.

“Glass ceilings have been broken repeatedly in our industries,” Juncadella said, urging attendees to rethink biases and stereotypes. She explained the term “glass cliff,” a phenomenon where women are put in leadership roles during periods of crisis or downturn – when the chance of failure is the highest.

Juncadella said it’s important for women in real estate to “pinpoint supporters. These are the people who are going to help you get to the next level.”

Subtle biases, like men sitting together at a conference table, a strong (or weak) handshake, and treating women differently when they return from maternity leave, can have an impact, panelists said.

“There is a critical need for mentors to step back and recognize that there are unconscious biases in a gender discussion,” Dotson said.

Pay transparency helps keep a pay gap in check, Schifino said. “It would be extremely difficult without pay transparency to have an equitable pay system,” Schifino, a partner at Tampa-based Burr-Forman, said.

A wage gap of more than 23 percent exists between men and women in the commercial real estate industry, according to a CREW study.

“Here’s what you do about gender pay gaps. You don’t accept them,” Downs said. “It’s 2016. That’s the answer.”

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