Talking CRE Gender Parity in the #MeToo Era

Carrie Rossenfeld Professional Services

AEI’s Consultants is based in the Bay Area with offices in Orange County and San Diego. Its CEO, Holly Neber, is the incoming president of CREW Network. With the CREW Network Convention running Oct. 17-19 in San Diego, SoCal Real Estate spoke with Neber about women in CRE, the #MeToo/Time’s Up movement within CRE, and CREW Network’s plans for its 30th year.

Holly Neber, CEO of AEI Consultants and CREW Network president-elect | Courtesy a representative of AEI Consultants

SoCal Real Estate What do you see as the greatest challenges and opportunities facing women in CRE today?

Neber: As CREW Network’s industry research shows, a wage gap still exists between men and women in commercial real estate professions. The most recent benchmark study showed an average gap of 23.3 percent. In addition, women are under-represented in the C-suite, and unconscious biases exist in our organizations. So, those are some challenges.

On the opportunity side, we know that organizations perform better with greater diversity in their leadership teams. We are also at a pivotal time, and the conversation around pay parity is happening in many industries, including sports and entertainment. In addition, recruitment and retention of high performers and high-potential individuals is front and center for most employers. CREW Network is a valuable ally for organizations seeking to align themselves with the best and brightest (our members!). CREW provides invaluable leadership development to our members while advancing their careers through member-to-member business opportunities. We are at a unique moment in time and well positioned to continue transforming the industry by advancing women.

How is the greater #MeToo/Time’s Up discussion influencing conversations in the CRE industry?

These recent social movements are affecting change. A survey by Challenger, Grey & Christmas of 150 HR executives found that nearly half were reviewing their compensation policies in light of the social movements. Like other industries, commercial real estate is now under greater pressure to address the pay gap — and meet diversity, equality, and inclusion goals.

On September 28, CREW Network released its 2018 white paper, Achieving Pay Parity in Commercial Real Estate. This white paper presents data, best practices, and action steps for company leadership, HR, and women professionals to close the gender pay gap. CREW Network is the only organization providing this valuable data and action steps for achieving gender parity and greater diversity and inclusion, and the industry is benefiting from what we’re bringing to the conversation.

What are some of the new initiatives and goals CREW Network is planning as it enters its 30th year?

CREW Network is enjoying significant recognition throughout the industry on the topic of diversity and inclusion, and we aspire to be the leading organization creating a pipeline for gender diversity in CRE. We’ll be launching a new internship website next year. In addition, we’ll continue our highly valued Certificate in Leadership program to keep developing the leadership pipeline.

We’re also focusing on our global agenda and planning a Global Study Mission to London in 2019. Operating within the U.S., Canada, and UK, we know that CRE is local but business is global, and we’re part of that global network.
In terms of offering value to our members, we continue to see a large volume of business connections happening on our members-only online community. We love doing business together and wowing our clients when they need a referral for an architect, attorney, engineer, lender, broker, etc.

We also look to provide value to members during all phases of their professional journey. Many chapters are now offering dedicated networking opportunities for those new to CRE, and CREW Network is offering a new Corporate Board Training program for senior executive women.

How are you promoting equity and diversity in the workplace at your firm, AEI Consultants?

We started by articulating the vision clearly in AEI’s Strategic Plan for 50/50 representation on the leadership team. We also created an internal leadership development group dedicated to women, and over the past few years have experienced improvement in the gender balance at the management level.

CREW Network is a significant resource for AEI on this front. For example, two of our regional directors are CREW members, and their leadership development within their CREW chapters has been invaluable. In addition, we all attend Convention together, and this gives us time to bond and bring the latest knowledge back to our company. We are still a work in progress in terms of equity and diversity, and it’s exciting to see the change occur and to see the benefits to AEI with each step forward that we take. I see the transformation of AEI through our CREW involvement as a case study in the power of CREW Network to transform our industry