Over the last two years, women have been empowered to pursue better workplace dynamics. From diversity to flexibility to pay equality, women are demanding that companies meet their needs, or they are prepared to explore alternative opportunities. What's more, companies that aren't adapting and fostering supportive work environments are seeing women leave at record rates.

So says the new report from CREW Network, Building the CRE Workforce of the Future, which explores emerging trends in work and how women are at the helm of reshaping workplace culture. And one such trend stands out: 27% of CRE professionals have left the workplace in the last two years seeking better opportunities, better benefits, or a culture that better fits their values, priorities, and lifestyle.

"This aligns with the Great Aspiration trend, where workers are seeking ways to create a life that they want," Wendy Mann, CEO of CREW Network, says. "That is really telling about what matters to people."

What Women Want

Women want an equitable environment that reflects their needs. Pay equality is at the top of that list. In CREW's 2022 survey, 34% of women chose pay transparency as the top priority in improving the workplace. Women believe companies should routinely monitor compensation to ensure equitable standards through raises and pay increases and bonuses. Flexible workplace polices were second on the list, with 27% saying this was their highest priority, following by workplace diversity (19%), professional support (11%) and health and wellbeing services (8%).  This list of characteristics are also aligned with the CREW Network CRE Pledge for Action, a commitment by CEOs to advance diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) efforts.

Due to the tight job market and a spotlight on DEI, women are in a unique position to demand inclusive practices. "Women are no longer accepting that it is okay [to have an unsupportive workplace] and there is a lot of opportunity for women to make moves than there might have been," says Mann. "It is an employee's market, and if you want something different, you can find it."

Creating the right environment begins with the company culture, according to Mann, who says that the office environment is driving choices that women are making in the workforce. "Employees need to feel like they can be their authentic selves at work," she says.

Slow and Steady Progress

The good news is that change is happening. More than two-thirds of CRE professionals said that companies are making proactive changes to adapt to employee needs, and ESG adoption is helping to advance diversity and inclusion faster than DEI programs alone. "Executive leadership has really come to see the value of a diverse workforce," says Mann. "That is a big step forward for companies."

The changing economic climate is the biggest threat to this progress. As Mann notes, an incoming recession, inflation and commercial real estate-specific headwinds, like the slowdown in construction and destabilization of the office market, will affect company ESG and DEI plans. "The real proof in the pudding will be how fast we see change over the next 12 to 18 months," says Mann. "If you continue to see companies moving toward these ESG goals, that is where you are going to get the best outcome."


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Kelsi Maree Borland

Kelsi Maree Borland is a freelance journalist and magazine writer based in Los Angeles, California. For more than 5 years, she has extensively reported on the commercial real estate industry, covering major deals across all commercial asset classes, investment strategy and capital markets trends, market commentary, economic trends and new technologies disrupting and revolutionizing the industry. Her work appears daily on GlobeSt.com and regularly in Real Estate Forum Magazine. As a magazine writer, she covers lifestyle and travel trends. Her work has appeared in Angeleno, Los Angeles Magazine, Travel and Leisure and more.