How women in the real estate workforce weathered the pandemic – Commercial Observer

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Despite all the changes over the past year or more, not much has changed for women in the commercial real estate industry. This is despite the verbal commitment of its major companies and business groups to gender equity, and the fact that the majority of new hires in the industry last year were women.

Instead, women – working mothers, in particular – say they continue to face challenges and tough choices that their male counterparts don’t.

The pandemic has pushed millions of American women out of the workforce, and commercial real estate is no different. Some women in the industry lost their jobs due to layoffs, while others left because they struggled to balance demanding jobs with caring for children or elderly parents.

“Women were disproportionately affected in commercial real estate because they were across society during the pandemic,” said Wendy Mann, managing director of the Commercial Real Estate Women Network (CREW), a networking group professional and advocacy, which marks its 32nd year. . “They became a teacher, a mother, a caregiver. “

Although no individual, company or organization has collected data on women leaving the commercial real estate industry, Mann said some business leaders told him they had lost female employees who were struggling to balance work. and privacy and care for their children during the pandemic. She added that commercial real estate companies will continue to bleed female workers if they do not allow hybrid forms of work and flexible hours.

“What companies are seeing now is that they will lose their talent if they don’t create an environment that is flexible and supports the needs of an entire person,” Mann said.

There were 1.8 million fewer women in the workforce in May than there were before COVID in February 2020, according to Bloomberg. Finding child care centers remains a struggle for many women as child care centers become more expensive and harder to find than before the pandemic.

A recent survey from the Care.com employment platform found that 72% of families say childcare has become more expensive during the pandemic, while 42% say it has become harder to find , as many child care providers shut down during the pandemic, sometimes for good.

Tina Tchen, CEO of Time’s Up, a charity that supports those affected by sexual harassment, told NPR last month that the lack of child care has become so severe during the pandemic that her organization has convinced 200 companies – including Google, McDonald’s, JPMorgan Chase, Verizon, Uber and PayPal – to sign a council focused on providing child care services to their employees.

“Fifty percent of the country lived in a child care desert before the pandemic,” Tchen told the outlet in an interview. “And then childcare businesses were shutting down during the pandemic. We don’t have enough caregivers to hire in this country because we have never invested in caregivers as a workforce.

She added: “We cannot, as a country, have a sustainable economy if we don’t have everyone able to participate, including women. And, to do this, for the first time, we must now invest as a nation in a care infrastructure that supports all workers. “

At a Commercial Observer event in late June, Rebecca Rockey, global head of economic analysis and forecasting for Cushman & Wakefield, said women have not only left the workforce at higher rates than men for the pandemic, they reduced their working hours more than their male counterparts too. The labor force participation of women with children has declined by 3.5 percentage points over the past 14 months, Rockey explained, as mothers typically do three hours of unpaid overtime at home every day, as s ” look after children or take care of household chores.

Carly Tripp, chief investment officer at Nuveen Real Estate, said women still face many of the same cultural challenges in male-dominated industries that they faced before the pandemic.

“Women start leaving when they have kids, or they start to turn their heads and they get a little different experience in the financial industry than their friends in more female-friendly industries,” said Tripp. “So either you lose them to a completely different industry or you lose them because they have children.”

Her own executive assistant, a single mother, ended up resigning during the pandemic in order to focus on her children’s education and schooling.

“I really didn’t want her to go and I really wanted to associate with her, but at the end of the day her priority was her kids,” Tripp said. “There is a lot of pent-up demand for women workers, so once things go [normalize] and the children are back to school, we will see women return to the workforce.

Tripp remembers being the only female analyst at a real estate finance company 20 years ago when she graduated from college. However, she noted that the makeup of the real estate industry was starting to change and that 60% of new hires in the industry last year were women.

“Where we still need to make progress is in these middle layers of management,” said Tripp. “We have to make sure we create an inclusive culture.

She added that she tries to remind her male employees to make sure they include their female colleagues in after-work meetings or lunches.

“What I impress about the team is just being aware. Are you leaving the wife out of your boys’ happy hour? And, if you are, invite them. Because that’s the only way to start making an impact on change and starting relationships.

Commercial real estate companies in general and their executives should prioritize supporting working women – especially those with families – if they believe in their diversity commitments, CREW’s Mann said.

“Businesses are sensitive to the lack of diversity in real estate and the loss of women will only contribute to that,” she said. “And I think they want to commit to keeping women in their workforce by creating opportunities for women and adjusting the time for more professional opportunities.”

Mann noted that women can take care of other family members as well. “Especially people in the workforce who are in senior management positions – they are caring for aging parents and people with special needs in their families. These are conditions to which we must be aware and to which we must be sensitive. “

There is also another way for members of the industry to support their female workforce, and this is something the pandemic has highlighted in red.

Hybrid work arrangements tend to benefit women even more than men, said Rockey of Cushman & Wakefield, as they do more unpaid work at home, but still need the mentorship early in their careers than men. people get to the office.

“The hybrid is really where people have the best experiences, and that disproportionately benefits women,” she explained. “Being in the office is very important – building trust and bonding – for young employees, especially young women; developing these networks and mentoring is so important.


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