CREW Study Indicates Diversity and Business Success Are Linked

SVN International Corp., PNC, Miles & Stockbridge, KeyBank, JLL, Deloitte, Camden, Bozzuto, CREW, CBRE, YouTube, Avison Young
Image courtesy of CREW Network

By Meghan Hall

A new white paper recently released by the Commercial Real Estate Women’s (CREW) Network, a leading producer of research on women in commercial real estate, indicates that gender equity and diversification efforts lead to increased market growth for companies. However, despite promising advancements for women in the world of real estate, large gaps in pay and industry aspirations remain.

The newest white paper references CREW Network’s 2015 benchmark study, which occurs every five years and found that the median annual compensation for women in the commercial real estate industry was about 23 percent less than men. Across the industry, the study found the average salary for women was around $115,000, while for men the figure is closer to $150,000. The study also found that the pay gap was widest for those earning less than $100,000 annually and more than $250,000 annually.

Yet, the impact of this difference is more nuanced, and it shows itself through an aspirational gap, which according to CREW is real. Around 47 percent of women surveyed said their top goal was to reach the SVP/Partner level and just 28 percent of women aspired to reach the C-suite. For men, the aspiration to reach a higher executive level was much higher; 39 percent aspire to reach the SVP level, but 40 percent of men aspired to reach the C-Suite level.

While CREW Network speculates that there could be a variety of reasons for the existence of an aspiration gap, the study does point towards the link between sponsorship and career advancement. The white paper again sites the 2015 study in which women ranked the lack of a mentor as the primary barrier to success in their careers. Women are 54 percent less likely to have a sponsor than men, and men benefit more from mentorship than women. CREW attributes this to the fact that mentors of men are in higher positions, which leads to more rapid advancement and higher compensation.

Organizations such as CREW Network can encourage women to strive for leadership roles and provide support for women in the industry. CREW Network, which was founded in 1989, has more than 10,000 members globally and has chapters in over 70 markets across North America.

While CREW Network strives to advance the achievements of women in the commercial real estate industry, it also advocates for making diverse and inclusive work environments a priority.

According to CREW Network, companies with diverse upper management see higher returns on their investments than more homogenous companies and sites a study by Nordea Bank AB, which found that companies with a female CEO or chairperson saw a 25 percent return on investment, nearly twice the world average of 11 percent. The report also states that diverse teams are more creative, aware of biases and better equipped to handle potential problems.

After reviewing testimonials, the 2017 CREW Network Industry Search Committee interviewed 10 national employers of various sizes in the commercial real estate industry. The case studies examined employee programs, work arrangements and representation of women in upper-level positions and found that gender equity and overall diversity have contributed to increases in profits and stock performance.

San Bruno, Calif.-based YouTube was one of the employers selected by CREW Network after boosting its female representation from 24 percent to 30 percent in three years under CEO Susan Wojcicki. YouTube strove to support underrepresented groups and established a C-Suite Level Leadership Diversity Council.

Los Angeles-based CBRE was also identified for its inclusion efforts. Three of CBRE’s eleven board members are women, while CBRE’s Women’s Network, which was established in 2000 and has roughly 3,000 members, holds a two-day annual forum for professional development and networking.

When the companies were asked for advice on improving gender equity and inclusion in the workplace, many stated that acknowledging bias and recognizing barriers to success at all levels of the company were key in facilitating diversity efforts. And, while implementing these policies may not be easy, there are clear indications that doing so results in better business outcomes overall.

Highlights of the 10 companies profiled:

Avison Young

  • 40% of employees are women
  • Engaged an executive search firm to identify female leaders to recruit to its board, currently comprised of eight white men—a makeup which CEO Mark Rose calls out as a “whopping F” in terms of gender equity and diversity
  • As a company believes that culture drives revenue and profits—not the other way around


  • 47% of employees are women
  • In Bozzuto Management Company, 76% of leadership roles are held by women
  • 2016 was one of Bozzuto’s best years in terms of profitability, and CEO Toby Bozzuto attributes this to having greater diversity within the company


  • The first multifamily company to appear on Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to Work For list and was recognized for 10 consecutive years
  • Three of 10 board directors are women
  • Offers up to 12 weeks of maternity leave, nursing rooms, and supports employees’ family time
  • 14% of employees take advantage of a flexible schedule


  • Three of 11 board directors are women
  • In 2017, Fortune Magazine named the firm one of the Most Admired Companies in the real estate sector for the fifth year in a row
  • CBRE’s Women’s Network, a nationally recognized global network with nearly 3,000 members, earned a top 10 spot on the Global Diversity List

Deloitte (UK)

  • In 2016, The Times named Deloitte among the Top 50 Employers for Women and awarded the firm its Business in the Community and Government Equalities Office Transparency Award for gender pay gap reporting
  • Return-to-Work Placement Program assists women who have been out of the workplace for three to five years
  • Working Parents Transitions Program helps address the challenge of balancing demanding careers with new family responsibilities


  • Globally, women account for 39% of JLL’s executive leadership and 36% of the board of directors; within the U.S., 46% of JLL’s workforce is female
  • Since the inception of JLL’s efforts to bring gender balance to the organization, it has seen an 87% growth in female associates
  • Employee resource groups comprise 6,500 employees, participating in more than 200 locations; JLL’s Women’s Business Network (WBN) has 23 chapters


  • Board is one of the most diverse in the financial services industry, with five women among its 16 directors
  • Four of 14 executive leadership team members are women
  • Beth Mooney has been chairman and CEO of KeyCorp since 2011 and an executive officer of KeyCorp since 2006; she is the only female chairman and CEO of a top 20 bank in the U.S.
  • Has made more than $6 billion in loans to women-owned business due in part to its Key4Women® program

Miles & Stockbridge

  • 36% of the firm’s 240 lawyers are women
  • Women hold 32% of the senior lawyer leadership positions and comprise 50% of senior staff
  • One-third of the board of directors is female and just less than 40% of the practice group leaders are women
  • Firm policy calls for at least one woman, minority, or LGBTQ lawyer to be interviewed for all lateral positions


  • More than 30% of the company’s executive level positions (board of directors and executive committee) are female
  • Named to the Working Mother Magazine Best Places to Work list for the past 15 years
  • Has a network of more than 1,700 bankers and advisors who self-identify as PNC-Certified Women Business Advocates; about 30% of these advocates are men

SVN International Corp.

  • In 2012, set a goal of achieving diversity and gender equity by 2020
  • In 2013, President and CEO Kevin Maggiacomo co-founded 50/50 by 2020, a national campaign to establish gender equity in leadership roles across all firms by 2020
  • Half of the companies’ executive management team and board of directors are women
  • Proactive promotion of properties and fee sharing programs provide exposure to deals and opportunities to those outside of the traditional “old boy network”

CREW Network develops white papers annually and publishes a benchmark study every five years to provide valuable industry data and insights. The 2017 white paper was developed by the 2017 CREW Network Industry Research Committee and made possible by the support of Industry Research Program Sponsor CBRE.

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