Q: AZCREW is celebrating 30 years in 2015. How has the local organization helped shape the landscape of commercial real estate professionals in the Valley?
A: AZCREW facilitates business networking, enabling members to build their network. We create opportunities for our members to work together and offer a way for them to give back to their community. Additionally, we educate women about career opportunities ensuring that commercial real estate remains not only a rewarding career choice but a viable industry for women. AZCREW is one of 76 chapters of the CREW Network. The Arizona chapter was established in 1985 and has a remarkable history of relationship-building and education, as well as an outstanding reputation for the success of its members as integral players in commercial real estate. AZCREW members represent nearly every discipline within commercial real estate including architecture, law, property management, finance, construction, brokerage, engineering, title/escrow, asset management and many others.
Q: Have you seen a significant shift in the balance of male vs. female leadership roles in Valley commercial real estate?
A: I have seen a number of studies regarding women’s progress toward achieving parity in the corporate world, but not much information exists specifically regarding women in commercial real estate. Women have not made enough headway in commercial real estate even though there are numerous studies reflecting an improved bottom line for companies with gender diversity at the executive level and boardrooms. AZCREW is passionate about the mission of the organization to advance women in commercial real estate. Chairs, boards and committee members are dedicated to furthering the success of the members by training and mentoring the next generation of organizational leaders. These positions require active participation, hours of volunteer time and a commitment to making a difference in the organization and commercial real estate community.
Q: What challenge or challenges do you see AZCREW members facing now, in 5 years, and in 10 years?
A: Women need to help management overcome commonly misperceived notions about the skills and strengths women bring to the table and to fairly compensate women for their contributions. Salaries for women starting in real estate are much more similar to men these days. Therefore, as new generations of women move through the ranks the gap in pay between men and women should decrease. Women who have a mentor are more likely to achieve upward career moves. We need to continue to mentor younger real estate women. To assist this effort AZCREW now offers discounted membership for those under 35. On a broader scale, CREW Network is focused on helping more women transition to the industry’s top leadership positions.
Q: Of CREW’s core values — leadership, excellence, influence, community, integrity and advancement — which do you feel is most crucial?
A: For AZCREW to be successful as an organization we need all of these values, but building effective leaders is key to advancing women in the commercial real estate industry. To be an effective leader in real estate as with any industry, you must be able to communicate. Part of this communication involves networking, supporting and reaching out to our partners in the industry. Through participation in AZCREW, members have the opportunity to develop their leadership skills by attending high-level leadership development training provided by CREW Network as well as opportunities to serve on boards both locally and nationally. This participation helps to develop and hone effective leadership skills.
Q: Of the benefits that membership in AZCREW offers, which do you feel is the most important?
A: The recent downturn in commercial real estate created a new role for women in the industry that AZCREW entitled “women in transition.” It has become abundantly clear to those of us with long histories in organizations such as AZCREW that these groups provide the support, networking and community individuals need when transitioning from one company and job to another. I have worked in the commercial real estate industry for more than 20 years and formed strong and long lasting friendships and value the support, lifeline and opportunity these friendships offer in times of need and change. Change is a constant in today’s economic, business and commercial real estate environment. To quote Winston Churchill: “To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often.” I participate in AZCREW to mentor and support women and also encourage them to not just accept, but to embrace change as I have and the inherent opportunity it provides.
Karen Halpert is Senior Vice President, Single-Tenant Property Management at Cole Real Estate Investments. She is responsible for maximizing the financial portfolio performance of Cole’s nearly 1,950 single-tenant retail, office and industrial properties throughout the continental U.S. Prior to joining Cole, she held leadership positions in property management, asset management and leasing with Related Urban Management, RREEF Management Company, Cabot Industrial Trust and CBRE. She has been a member of AZCREW for 9 years.