Are We There Yet,
Baby? Probably Not.
WOMEN HAVE COME A LONG WAY IN THIS
industry over the past decade or two. FORUM’s sister
website, GlobeSt.com, reported on a recent study by
Ferguson Partners that found REITs with at least one
woman on their boards have had significantly higher shareholder returns than
those without— 2.6% higher over a three-year period and 3.6% over five years.
That’s great news for women in this business. It also bodes well—relatively
speaking—that 56% of REITs have a female board member, whereas just 11%
of Fortune 500 companies do. There were advances broadly, though; in this
year’s Fortune 500 ranking, 18 firms had female CEOs, up from 12 in 2011 and
a mere seven in 2002. Still, that’s just 3.6% of the entire list. In the finance and
insurance industries in particular, women make up 57.6% of the labor force, but
only 18.4% of executive office positions and 3.7% of CEO posts.
Nationally, women still earn less than men, and the gap’s been closing by
a mere half a cent annually since the Equal Pay Act was passed in 1963.
Theoreticcally, women would have to work 4. 5 extra months per year to match
men’s pay. For women of color, the gap widens even more.
There’s still a glass ceiling and commercial real estate is still considered a
“boys’ club.” Strides have been made, but most women will tell you they need
to work extra hard to prove themselves and be taken seriously in this industry.
FORUM’s editorial team is on a constant mission to portray more women
on our pages, but it’s been difficult. Case in point: as we put together our
2012 Icons series, which looks at developers, investors and owners that are
“household names” in local markets, we could find just a handful—and that’s
across a half-dozen markets we’ve covered so far. Dominant women were
either in brokerage or haven’t yet achieved “iconic” status. Hopefully, as this
generation moves up, more women will reach that bar.
This responsibility isn’t solely on women’s shoulders; real estate companies
are increasingly making efforts to be more diverse, and in the most enlightened
firms, that mission includes the C-suite. Frankly, I believe any business that
doesn’t include both genders in senior-level positions and decision-making processes is selling itself short. Having a balance of opinions is critical.
It also impacts the bottom line. According to the Spectrem Group, the number of wealthy women in the US is growing at a faster rate than men—68%
over a two-year period versus 36%. Catalyst found that Fortune 500 firms with
more female executives had a 35% higher return on equity and 34% higher
shareholder returns. And the Ferguson study, which looked at 164 REITs,
examined several charactertistics and found that board diversity was the only
factor that was closely correlated to performance. Be it different business
approaches, motivations, our nurturing nature—whatever the reason—having
more women on board, literally and figuratively, can only be a benefit.
In our July/August issue, FORUM will feature our Women of Influence, honoring those who’ve paved the road for the next generation. We’ll also examine
the strides women have made and areas of improvement, focusing on a survey
of our readers. To have your voice heard, or suggest a Woman of Influence, visit
our website. Both the survey and nomination form are available until June 8.
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