April 30, 2013
Women property managers climb the career ladder
When President John F. Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act in 1963 – legislation that was supposed to ban discrimination against women employees – women earned only 58 cents for every dollar earned by a man. Women now earn about 79 cents for every dollar earned by a man, according to the most recent U.S. Census Bureau survey. So, a full half century down the line, parity has still not been attained but it’s been a long march in the right direction.
Real estate sets the example
Real estate is certainly one field where women have made great strides. A recent study established that women comprise 43 percent of commercial real estate professionals. Earnings’ equality, however, is still some way off. Women realtors still reported lower annual compensation than men, although the gap appears to be narrowing, especially in the past five years. Women in the sector now earn an average of 96 percent of the salary of their male counterparts, compared to 78 percent for all industries. This compares very favorably to other parts of the world. Take the Middle East, for example, where women in the real estate business earn 36.7 per cent less than their male colleagues.
Several prominent networks are also in place for women in the international real estate sector. For example, great organisations in Canada like the Toronto Crew, whose 181 members hail from all the disciplines in commercial real estate or, international organizations like WIRE, (Women in Real Estate) which has hundreds of members in US cities such as San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York and even in London in the UK.
One particular job in the real estate business – that of property manager – is increasingly filled in by women. It’s perhaps no surprise why women property managers excel in a field that calls for a great deal of arbitration between people with very different agendas. Most people would agree that women are better at conflict resolution. Men seem to have a natural instinct to take sides – even though professional training should overcome this – and choose a “winner” in a dispute.
The female touch
A woman’s natural tendency, on the other hand, is to reconcile. Tenants and aggrieved landlords often want a kindly ear for their problems. Women tend to be good listeners. Subsequently, women may arbitrate but they allow people to let off steam and they have an ability to see both sides of an argument.
There’s another reason why women make fine property managers. The good property manager is forever multi-tasking – advising tenants on emotional problems, adjudicating over financial disputes, trying to placate disgruntled landlords and resolving (often petty) disagreements. In that respect it’s perhaps an ideal job for a woman who is adept at juggling different responsibilities. Perhaps the conflicting demands that stem from being a working mother prepare them for that. And, in the view of some people, women tend to be better organized than men.
A successful career
One of the industry’s most celebrated success stories is that of Julie Hughes who answered a newspaper ad seeking an “Assistant to the President,” at a tiny firm called United Properties. From humble beginnings she was able to build a successful and lucrative career.
Forty years later, Hughes retired at the age of 64 with an impressive title that amply fills out her business card: senior vice president and regional director of property management for Cushman & Wakefield/NorthMarq, a sister United Properties company that manages 40 million square feet of real estate space.
In spite of her success, she preferred to measure her success in terms of the human touch. “I’d like to think my career was more about the development of people, the mentoring,” she said in a recent interview.
Like every business, it’s the human touch that still holds sway and seems to determine if a person is successful.