Brad Bonkowski and Andie Wilson: Closing the gap: The role of CREW in commercial real estate

Beginning in 2002, we worked to help found the Northern Nevada chapter of CREW (Commercial Real Estate Women). This national organization has membership of more than 10,000 CREW Network members representing nearly every discipline within the commercial real estate industry globally and has a presence in more than 70 major markets across North America. The mission of the organization is to influence the success of the commercial real estate industry by advancing the achievements of women.

To our knowledge, CREW is the only organization to have completed a study, which is updated every five years, about gender bias and wage discrepancy in the commercial real estate industry. This is a male-dominated industry, however, depending on the job category you will find women are the majority. These concentrations tend to be in the salaried positions, such as in escrow, for example, whereas brokerage positions (commission based) tend to be filled by men.

The most interesting discovery of this benchmark study, first completed in 2005, was women in the industry gravitated to these lower paying positions, which tend to be salaried, and away from higher paying positions, which tend to be commission based. Women tended to have a strong aversion to risk, and chose lesser, more stable paychecks instead of taking chances on bigger paychecks that may not be as consistent. In 2015, 72 percent of women in the industry were salaried versus 58 percent of men, while 25 percent of men were commission based versus 14 percent of women. In the initial study in 2005, respondents were honest about their desire for stability and the need to care for families, and often understood how those choices meant they would ultimately sacrifice their own earning potential.

The 2015 study showed modest improvement over the 2005 study. The average industry median compensation was 23.3 percent lower for women (meaning that women tend to earn about 23.3 percent less than their male counterparts for the same work), but the income gap continues to be widest in the executive roles: 29.8 percent (this phenomenon is not unique to this industry). Women in the 2015 study ranked the lack of mentorship within their company as the No. 1 barrier to success, underscoring the importance of continuing to focus on mentors and sponsors.

Why does any of this matter to you? Well, if you have children growing up, or perhaps raising their own families in Northern Nevada, you might be interested to know while commercial real estate can be difficult to get established in ... it can take up to five years to make a sustainable living ... the industry offers an abundance of interesting and rewarding careers. Of all the career options available in the commercial real estate industry, brokerage typically proves to be the most lucrative and the riskiest. A healthy market might mean a record-breaking year, but a recession like the one we saw in 2008-11 might mean income suddenly drops by 90 percent, as ours did.

Across the county, typically women make up 29 percent of the brokerage community in commercial real estate. Interestingly, this is basically the opposite of the percentage you’ll find amongst residential real estate brokers — where women make up the majority of the active agents you’ll find in the field. But in Carson City, half of the full-time, active commercial real estate brokers are women, and three of them work in our office. Why? The answer is mentorship. The male-dominated commercial real estate industry in Carson City 15-20 years ago was open and supportive of women trying to get established here, and in both theory and practice, mentorship makes all the difference in the world.

Perhaps you’re tired of hearing about the gender gap in wages. Two comments: (1) Imagine how tired of the topic you might be if you found yourself making less in your position than your equal male counterpart! (2) Women have largely been held responsible for the compensation gap because they don’t negotiate well for themselves, or are not as willing to take risks with their careers. Honing negotiating skills is a primary focus of the mentorship done in our office, and is also a focus of CREW. We’re seeing the results locally and on a national platform, leading us to believe we will see the wage gap reduced in the years to come.

Brad Bonkowski, CCIM and Andie Wilson, CCIM are owner/brokers of NAI Alliance Carson City, a commercial real estate brokerage. They can be reached at 775-721-2980.


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