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Brenna WalravenChair ElectBOMA International Washington, DC

Commentator Walraven stands at an interesting point in the development of diversity in this industry. In addition to being executive managing director of national property management for USAA, Walraven is set to become the first female chair of the Building Owners & Managers Association. (You can read more on her strategy for the association in next week’s UpClose.) In her role, she has an informed perspective on how well women are growing within the real estate sector. And how does that jibe with last week’s FeedBack Poll? Well, 44% said that women are making inroads throughout the hierarchy while 56% believe that women are making only token gains.

It should be noted that in last year’s poll, which treated the broader issue of diversity, 59% of our readers stated their belief that it was myth in our industry. Here’s Walraven’s take on the progress of women:

“Women and minorities are already here in a big way. The Crew [Commercial Real Estate Women] Network did a survey in 2005 that showed that the percentage of women in the industry went from 32% to 36%. So we’re well over a third of the population.

“Crew has about 7,000 members, and the survey showed that the average income was $125,000. That’s compelling not only because greater leadership roles are achievable, but–and this relates as well to my role in BOMA–they choose to seek those positions. There are opportunities there should women seek them. I’m a firm believer that if you work hard and care about what you do, you will create your own opportunities for growth.

“That 36% is not reflected in the C-Suite, but many women in business generally have gone either to smaller companies or tend to start their own. This is being replicated within our industry, which has gone from private to public and back to private, and with mergers such as CBRE and Trammell, all that has an impact on roles and opportunities.

“I believe you’ll see more of this shift take place as it dovetails into our changing demographics. There are something like 8,000 baby-boomers a day turning 60. The younger set wants balance. They want an exciting career but they also want to see their kids and be active in their church. There’s a new focus on social responsibility, and it’s an important issue for a lot of people but particularly for younger professionals.”

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