By Laura Cooper Wedekind
When I first started at Steiner + Associates 22 years ago, the commercial real estate (CRE) industry was primarily dominated by males, with few women—if any—in positions of leadership, including at Steiner. But since the start of the 21st century, females have been achieving tremendous inroads in CRE, and companies that make investments to support them are rewarded in profound ways.
Aside from a young professionals group that includes future female leaders, and a signed commitment to the city of Columbus to guarantee gender equity in our workplace, Steiner recognizes and promotes the role of women as leaders in the CRE industry in numerous ways.
At Steiner today, almost every leadership position within the organization is filled by women. But it wasn’t always that way. Over time, our female department heads would slowly pull other women up in the organization, who would then develop and promote the next generation of women under them. None of this could happen, however, without a robust mentorship program in place.
As a woman, finding a mentor—someone who can help you when you’re trying to figure out your future—is invaluable in any industry, but especially commercial real estate. Those advisors can encourage people to lean in or step up for things they may not feel fully qualified for and create opportunities for talent to become noticed.
Working for an organization that’s more open to a virtual or hybrid work environment is tremendously beneficial for women, who tend to take on more of the household and child-rearing responsibilities. Being able to work remotely helps level the playing field a bit more and allows hard work to get recognized appropriately.
With the vast majority of office workers—including CRE professionals—preferring a hybrid approach moving forward, this is an arena that’s holding increasingly more weight, and will be a priority for all top talent, men and women, in hiring for future positions.
Women tend to have incredibly strong EQ, or emotional intelligence. In an industry like commercial real estate that’s heavily based on relationships—whether it’s tenants, lenders or associates—having smart, capable females in those management roles makes logical sense. Having the ability to listen, observe and quickly change thinking based on new information is simply one of several examples of EQ having a positive impact in a CRE environment.
Retail real estate, in particular, is perfectly suited toward women—who make up the majority of shoppers and can therefore provide important contextual insight into strategies and approaches that maximize tenant foot traffic and overall sales.
Steiner has long cultivated a healthy environment for female CRE professionals, and I’m excited about the expanded role women will continue to play in the future of our thriving industry, as well as within Steiner.