Is Mentoring Key to Real Gender Parity in CRE?
Lauren Hetherington, Associate Director for Healthcare Capital Markets at JLL, explains how mentoring schemes can help bridge a widely reported gender disparity within the corporate real estate sector.
In commercial real estate, we’re still suffering from a huge gender divide that seems to be widening rather than narrowing. In fact, according to research by membership organisation Commercial Real Estate Women (CREW) Network in its 2020 Benchmark Study*, 38 per cent of those working in the industry stated that there were zero women in senior leadership positions within their specialism. The report also found that men earned, on average, 58 per cent more than women.
We can also assess the anecdotal evidence received from our peers. In my own experience, I’ve been called ‘bossy’ by a male colleague – a trait that would be lauded by my male counterparts but something that was used to denigrate me.
But why is this? And how can we, as a sector, overcome it?
Barriers to growth
For women, there are still so many barriers to growth that need to be addressed. From outright discrimination, to lack of promotion opportunity, alongside the need to maintain a work-life balance, and responsibilities outside of work such as parenting or carer roles. All are things that are keeping women from being represented at the top table.
That’s why it’s imperative that professionals engage in mentoring programmes. Giving those in junior positions access to the advice and experience of executive-level individuals can help to overcome many career obstacles.
How can mentoring schemes help?
Taking place in person or even online over a set number of weeks, a structured scheme can help the mentee to work on many attributes that can support them in overcoming anything that stands in their way. This could include tips on how to extend a network, navigate salary negotiations, work on a personal brand, and much more.
From my own experience taking part in the CREW UK programme, I was able to build confidence through examining my language, practicing self-reflection, honing my leadership skills and talking through detailed career plans.
I was even offered guidance on how to gain a sponsor within my own organisation – something that is vital to a career trajectory. Different to a mentor, a sponsor will use their own internal impetus to assist you in advancing your career through the business.
For me, I was able to connect with my mentors on a personal level, however they also had experience within my industry so were able to advise on my career in a way that nobody else could, with my bespoke wants and needs at the fore.
The benefits of mentoring
As a result, these conversations formed connections, which led to incredibly useful further meetings with either the women I spoke with and their relevant teams. This created opportunities for me to excel within my own team at JLL, and improve my network of people within the sector. Our sessions forced me to look at what I really wanted out of my life and therefore my career, and how I was going to achieve that.
Further to this, these schemes don’t just benefit the mentees. Sue Asprey Price, head of corporate solutions at JLL and a senior mentoring figure on the programme said: "For the mentors, we create new connections, share our experiences and learn about new challenges. All the women I have worked with have ‘done their homework’ and been thoughtful on what can help them on their success journey. It’s a truly rewarding experience."
And it’s not just me that has benefitted. According to Forbes, a study found that 25 per cent of employees enrolled in a mentoring programme had a salary grade change, compared to only 5 per cent of those who did not participate**. It additionally found that mentees are promoted five times more often than those that did not participate in any initiative, and that they encouraged greater retention rates for staff.
Women in particular keenly feel the benefits – as mentoring is shown to help them overcome imposter syndrome and give them the confidence to have those difficult conversations around promotion and salary.
However, it’s vital that the anyone taking part must put in the hard work for it to have any effect. Mentoring is not a magic bullet, but something that must be given time and resources to.
This type of support is crucial to aiding women within commercial real estate to overcome barriers to professional development, and should be offered at all levels if we are to bring about real change.