How would you characterize the advances made by women in the field of commercial real estate today?
There are many, many successful women in commercial real estate today. In many instances, their success is due to their ability to network, continually learn, be resilient, and possibly because they’ve had a terrific mentor.
Having said that, there are barriers that do keep women from ascending into some of the C-suite leadership roles. Companies need to ensure that there’s compensation equity. That’s an important part of our education efforts.
Companies should also be consciously identifying high-potential women and grooming them for greater roles in senior management. I believe it’s become more critical for companies to reflect their clients, and diversity is no longer a nice-to-have, but a must-have at all levels. It’s been proven that companies are more successful when they have men and women at the leadership helm.
As you take over the helm at CREW, what are some of the items on your to-do list?
My specific areas of pursuit will include expanding our business network globally, increasing the number of members who give and get business through the CREW network, elevating the value of our leadership program, and delivering practical research for companies to eliminate gender bias and advance more women in leadership roles.
On the global front, in April we did a major launch initiative with CREW UK, an affiliate group to CREW Network. We see the U.K., affiliate as the first step in our efforts to build a global network.
On the education front, how is CREW working to groom future commercial real estate leaders?
At the high school level we’ve designed a program, CREW Careers, which is a hands-on Real Estate 101 classroom program designed to introduce high school girls to the many career opportunities available to them in the commercial real estate industry.
At the college level, we have UCREW. UCREW sessions are hosted each spring and fall by CREW Network chapters who utilize their members as role models to teach students networking fundamentals, offer powerful career resources and provide relationship-building opportunities in career development.
In 2016, CREW Network Foundation, our organization’s charitable arm, awarded $75,000 in scholarships to young women pursuing careers in commercial real estate. Recipients also receive a paid summer internship opportunity and registration to the annual CREW Network Convention and Marketplace, which provides real-world experience and valuable industry networking. To date, CREW Network and our Foundation have awarded 91 of these scholarships.
Is there any advice you were given earlier in your career that has served you well?
Over the course of a 30-year career, I’ve worked for a number of exceptional leaders. There was a CEO when I was in my twenties who was always encouraging me and giving me ways to succeed. He’d look at me and say, “Wendy, I have 25 ideas a day. If one of them sticks, I’m happy.”
I’ve always kept that in mind because he taught me about entrepreneurial spirit and I think it has served me well – to always be seeking what is needed by your members or customers and then to deliver it.
Wendy Mann became CEO of Commercial Real Estate Women (CREW) Network and president of CREW Network Foundation in February. CREW Network members include more than 10,000 professionals worldwide and represent nearly all disciplines of commercial real estate.