Diversity, equity and inclusion or DEI has become a ubiquitous catchphrase across the corporate world, and with good reason. Research has demonstrated many benefits to a diverse and inclusive workplace, with positive impacts on revenue growth, innovation, employee retention and engagement, risk mitigation, etc. At a time of major upheaval, it is no wonder that businesses are looking to secure every possible advantage to better perform, compete, and innovate.
That said, despite industry-wide calls for change, commercial real estate (CRE) has remained mostly male-dominated: According to a 2020 study by CREW Network, women make up just 37% of the commercial real estate industry, a percentage that has not changed much in the last 15 years. That number drops the higher up in an organization you go. And when you narrow the focus to brokerage, it falls to depressingly low levels.
The purpose of this article is not to expound on the historical, societal, or organizational reasons for this. Rather, JLL’s Québec Capital Markets Team has bucked the trend: Female brokers are represented across all levels of leadership and seniority and account for half the sales team. And while the paths that led us here are varied and unique, there are common themes that drew us and our colleagues to this business.
- Financial impact: Commercial real estate brokerage is known for producing some of the highest incomes across all industries, and this is usually cited as the primary motivation for pursuing this choice of career. There is a ton of money to be made in this field and, for women, this is especially material. Moreover, top female earners are more likely to donate to charity and donate as much as 156% more than men do. They also are more likely to pursue impact investment strategies and adopt intentional or value-based spending. As such, the ripple effect across society can be significant.
- Entrepreneurship: For women who want autonomy, agency, and mastery in building out a career, CRE brokerage offers a wealth of entrepreneurship opportunities. Setting out a vision and strategy for growth; building out a role that reflects your strengths and interests; laying out the foundations of a business over which you have control; and creating a space to innovate, experiment, fail and succeed, are all attractive career features for individuals who want to eschew the more traditional corporate ladder.
- Work-life balance: While work-life balance is an inherently personal and highly individual concept, it features prominently within CRE brokerage. The pace of growth and the scale of your ambitions can be set according to your personal goals and aspirations. This has never been truer than in the wake of the COVID pandemic: Brokerage offers a “work-from-anywhere” model that allows calls to be made during the school run, emails to be checked from a safari tent in Kenya, meetings to be had in a 40th floor boardroom, and deals to be done courtside.
- Merit-based: Success in CRE brokerage is primarily measured by revenue generation, a purely quantitative metric. How much business you brought in and how much revenue you generated trumps age, race, gender, sexual orientation, seniority, and all those elements that ought not to factor into measures of success but, more often than not, consciously or unconsciously, do.
- Fun: Between the people and the context, CRE brokerage demands that you always be learning, adapting, exploring, and improving. The industry is subject to a multitude of economic, policy, technology and socio-environmental micro- and macro-factors. It also attracts a wide variety of individuals – many of whom never knew what they wanted to be when they grew up – thus making for dynamic, fascinating, and diverse relationships. For individuals who fear stagnation and thrive on change, commercial real estate will amply fill your cup.
- Community: Obviously, none of this comes without its share of challenges, and real estate is not immune to the societal structures and biases that have historically kept women back. Though competitiveness among brokers (of all genders) is legendary, there is nothing like adversity to create a sense of community and shared identity. The common experience of women in real estate means that personal differences will be quickly set aside to support, listen, advise, champion, and mentor.
As we can attest, commercial real estate brokerage offers a wide landscape of opportunities where women with broad backgrounds and the right skills can develop an impressive track record of success and build meaningful, impactful, and dynamic careers.