Turner: u201cCompanies need to step back and engage their employee base in how they can create a better culture.u201d

NEWPORT BEACH, CA—Women in commercial real estate value flexibility in their workday and encouragement for career advancement from the firms for which they work, executives tell GlobeSt.com. Jana Turner, a principal with locally based CRE recruiting firm RETS Associates, and Rick Gillham, president of executive-search firm Gillham, Golbeck & Associates in Dallas, say the lack of these elements make for a company culture that puts off women in the industry.

The two firms recently collaborated on a “Women in Commercial Real Estate Recruiting and Retention Study” that revealed shifting priorities for women when considering a new job. The latest released results of the survey show that women are prioritizing workplace culture (placing it equal to location and just below compensation) when considering a job change. In fact, while compensation and job location remain the top factors in evaluating a new position, workplace culture now outpaces other leading considerations such as growth potential, commute time, work schedule and job title among the nearly 400 female CRE professionals who were polled. Survey participants included entry-level to senior-management CRE professionals from across the country.

GlobeSt.com spoke with Turner and Gillham about the latest survey results and what the next steps should be for commercial real estate firms interested in attracting and retaining women. Part 1 of this two-part story explores how a women-friendly culture is developed; Part 2, to be posted at a later date, will cover how firms ensure this culture will continue and what the future holds for women aspiring to higher-level CRE positions.

GlobeSt.com: How does a company develop a “culture” that fosters women’s career development?

Gillham: Mentoring programs help. A lot of companies got away from college recruiting in the last few years because of the economy, and the real estate business has not been very purposeful about recruiting women, except for the public sector.

Turner: Companies are hiring more women right now—we see a lot of requests for diverse candidates across the spectrum. In our dealings with clients, we get requests for women candidates now more than ever, so there’s not a lack of interest from companies in finding diverse talent, but in creating an environment that will promote their success. As Rick said, mentoring programs help, and improving communications, too. This is not a female vs. male issue. I think it’s just an environment that we can all learn from, not only dealing with women in the workplace from a diversity standpoint, but also in addressing ethnic and age diversity. Companies today are working with four generations of people, and it’s a large challenge to be effective with all those different personalities and all their wants and needs. Companies think we all like to be managed in the same way, but they need to step back and engage their employee base in how they can create a better culture. They need to engage all employees and not just have women’s groups and ethnic groups. There should be collaboration, not isolation.

Gillham: We, too, get a lot of requests for diversity candidates. Twenty years ago, it never came up. But we just got a list of the 50 highest-paid CEOs in Dallas—not just in commercial real estate, but in all categories—and there was only one woman on that list.

GlobeSt.com: So, what are the necessary elements to a women-friendly culture?

Turner: Companies need to create a more flexible environment. For example, a lot of firms are allowing people to work from their homes on certain days, which is such a great move in the right direction. This helps women who have families and gives them some breathing room. I see that becoming a big factor. I also see better collaboration and engagement of women on committees involving potential work-environment programs. Many times, they’re not shy about giving suggestions. It’s making sure there are continual mentoring, succession planning and recognition of women. They really would like to see a career path.

Gillham: Also, they like being supported with continuing education. Help from their firm with dues to CREW and similar associations is appreciated. This is an issue with people in general, whether they’re continuing their CPA or broker designations—any designation they have and any association they join requires dues.

Turner: If I look at our own firm, we have a majority of women recruiters. There’s a flexible work environment here, and we have very little turnover of our recruiting staff. People have been here 10 years. We have a flexible work environment, and one of the recruiters wanted help joining NAIOP. Some firms have a policy of all or nothing, and you have to be flexible in letting women engage in these organizations. It’s good for the firm and good for the person. You can also find good talent through this networking capability.

Watch for Part 2 of this story, coming up soon on GlobeSt.com.