We recently interviewed Heidi Burkhart, president and owner of New York brokerage firm Dane Real Estate, on how she’s succeeded in commercial real estate, a historically male-dominated industry. And with recent news about gender discrimination and harassment running rampant in Silicon Valley and beyond, this got me thinking about similar challenges we face in the technology industry with gender diversity (and diversity in general).
Let’s take a look at the disparity and see how we can work toward bridging the gap.
Why are there less women in these industries?
Women in both commercial real estate and technology report similar challenges in the workforce: gender discrimination/harassment, limitations resulting from parental or family obligations, lack of promotional opportunities, and lack of mentorship. Men, on the other hand, do not report any of these as their top hurdles (with the exception of lack of mentorship).
Thanks to unconscious cognitive bias, people tend to hire people like themselves. To decrease the gender gap, it is important to increase the number of women in the workforce as well as provide fair and equal promotional opportunities for them. In other words, you start by paying attention.
Why is gender diversity important?
Higher ROI: For those of us who are trying to be competitive in our own market, diversity in the workplace—not just gender diversity—has been been proven to increase ROI and mitigate financial volatility. McKinsey reports that companies in the top quartile for gender diversity are 15% more likely to outperform against industry medians.
A bigger talent pool: In 2016, 57% of college attendees were women compared to 43% men. Statistically, a larger percentage of the top hiring talent are women. If you consider a smaller portion of the available pool of talent, you will remain less competitive.
Different perspectives: Companies with more diverse teams are more innovative and have the ability to serve their customer’s needs better. A Forbes study has identified workforce diversity and inclusion as a key driver of internal innovation and business growth.
What can we do?
Again, the first thing is simply to recognize that the issue exists. Then you can start taking steps to break down these barriers. We need more discussions about identifying and solving the problem, whether that’s through diversity panels or company-wide dialogue about possible blind spots.
We can also strive to provide more support and mentorship opportunities inside and outside the company. Within CRE, Commercial Real Estate Women (CREW) is a great organization to increase your network of more diverse talent. The tech industry also offers female-focused support groups, including Women Who Code, Women Who Startup, and Women in Leadership.
Internally, the easiest way to provide mentorship opportunities is to hire more women into leadership. And instituting flexible work schedules is another easy win for all. This allows those with family obligations the flexibility to tend to those needs while still getting their work done and not feeling like they’re being held back in either sphere.
Both the tech and CRE industries have begun to recognize and address the problem, but there’s still plenty of room to grow and improve. Let’s hope the more positive trends continue in the right direction!