IREM Blogs

Building Female Empowerment in Real Estate

September 09, 2019 | IREM


It’s no secret that the commercial real estate (CRE) industry is dominated by men. But that’s changing. According to the CREW Network, today 43% of CRE professionals are women - a number that has grown by an estimated 35% since 2000. That’s not surprising, since development and construction of commercial real estate generates substantial economic growth, and offers plenty of career options, from brokerage to asset management and general contracting.

The 2019 edition of the Economic Impacts of Commercial Real Estate, published by the NAIOP Research Foundation, found that, in 2018, real estate development and building operations generated the following:

  • 8.3 million American jobs, new and existing
  • $1.0 trillion to U.S. GDP
  • $325.9 billion in salaries and wages

With these impressive numbers, establishing a career in CRE sounds attractive. Yet, despite strong representation in the field, and research that suggests including more women in leadership roles and on company boards is good for business, women are held back. Obstacles to female advancement in the industry include:

  • Pay inequity
  • Limited promotion opportunities
  • Disrespect of female opinions
  • Lack of mentorship

Of course, with the many disciplines of real estate, the impact of these obstacles to female empowerment varies. But they remain consistent. In fact, Deloitte’s 2019 Commercial Real Estate Industry Outlook recommends that “CRE companies should become more intentional about improving senior leader and board diversity, with specific targets to recruit women and minorities, followed by tailored programs to support them through their career life stages.”

Globe recently spoke with Cheryl Ann Gray, CPM head of special projects at QuadReal Property Group, and 2020 IREM president-elect. She shares her experiences, from being the first female property manager in the headquarters office of a major Canadian insurance company, and the first female director in its North American portfolio. “There was a time when it was unusual to see a female director,” she says.  “While we’re still challenged in the C-suite, there are nevertheless a lot of senior women in the business who continue to elevate and advance diversity and make the statement that there are opportunities here to grow.”

Creating a culture that promotes gender equity and rewards inclusive behaviors leads to better returns. For more of Cheryl Gray’s insights, and the impact of advancing women in real estate, go to

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