Female real estate executives interviewed also made the
point that, ultimately, women are responsible for managing their careers—and their lives, whatever that looks
like for each individual. Those who want to advance into
senior leadership must be willing to raise their profiles
within their firms and the industry.
“The onus is absolutely on women. It’s too naïve to
think that keeping their heads down and working really
hard and producing quality work is enough. They don’t
really understand networking and relationship building,”
said one executive, who added she was “very fortunate”
early on in her career when a male boss encouraged her
to become active in an industry association to gain visibility and increase networking. “And it wasn’t easy for me. I
think there are a lot of women who don’t find that a comfortable thing to do.”
Part of a Broader Problem
The lack of gender diversity in real estate investment management reflects a broader issue in the senior ranks of corporate America. As The Economist, quoting McKinsey & Company figures, observed: “America’s biggest companies hire
women to fill just over half of entry-level professional jobs.
But those women fail to advance proportionally: they occupy only 28% of senior managerial posts, 14% of seats on
executive committees, and just 3% of chief-executive roles.”2
At the same time, as seen across corporate America,
women must become more empowered to seek their own
advancement—a message broadcast in the best-selling book
Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, by Facebook COO
Sheryl Sandberg. Speaking up, Sandberg said, “is essential to
breaking the logjam. Talking can transform minds, which
can transform behaviors, which can transform institutions.”
Having in-depth conversations around gender diversity is
a powerful step in the right direction because many avoid
even talking about it—often out of fear of being perceived
as a complainer or an employee who is not able to play by
the same rules as men. And yet, if the issue is not addressed,
change will come very slowly for the next generation of
women, whose talents, energy, and viewpoints are valuable
The Benefits of Diversity
Diversity in the workplace is good for business. Research has
shown that organizations that have diversity in all forms—
gender, ethnic, and cultural—are enlightened. There is
greater opportunity to foster positive human interaction
and to tap a variety of viewpoints and perspectives. When
the overall workforce or the leadership ranks remain largely
homogenous, however, the organization can be damaged
because the exchange and debate of ideas is limited.
“You have to believe that low levels of diversity have
hurt our industry, and you have to believe that it has lim-
1. Nori Gerardo Lietz, Cloistered in the Pink Ghetto: Women in Private Equity, Real Estate and Venture Capital, 2012.
2. The Economist, “The Mommy Track: The Real Reason Why More Women Don’t Rise to the Top of Companies,” August 25,
3. Sheryl Sandberg, Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2013.
Ten Things Real Estate Investment Managers
Can Do to Promote Gender Diversity
1. Solidify commitment at the top of the organization
to promote greater gender diversity, particularly
among firms that do not have a broader corporate
mandate to do so.
2. Increase recruitment of women, as well as minorities,
at the entry level.
3. Provide mentorship and broaden career-develop-ment opportunities to groom more women for
4. Understand why women veer off their career tracks,
such as starting out in acquisitions/investments and
then ending up in client-facing capacities.
5. Promote “career path” flexibility for women who take
time off from their careers to raise families and/or to
6. Highlight senior women in leadership as highly
visible role models and mentors for younger women.
7. Establish off-work, “quasi-social” networking that
appeals to both genders to provide opportunities to
get advice, guidance, and coaching in an informal
8. Encourage women to gain visibility and increase
networking, such as by becoming active in industry
9. Have in-depth conversations around gender diversity
because many avoid even talking about the issue.
10. Appreciate the benefits of diversity to broaden
perspective, increase input, and encourage critical