Women are continuing to break stereotypes across all industries, and real estate is no exception. Enter CREW Network, Commercial Real Estate Women. Founded in 1989 with a goal of expanding the number of women in commercial real estate and promoting those already involved. The organization consists of more than 75 markets worldwide.

CREW Network CEO Wendy Mann explained that the organization stands on four pillars: a business network, leadership skills development, research and career outreach.

The business pillar provides members with an opportunity to network and build connections in their career. Members can also utilize CREWbiz technology which is a membership database that allows members to reach out on their own to make connections.

CREW Network wants to see its members continuing to learn and grow as real estate professionals. This goal is achieved through events and programs that AZCREW offers each year in alignment with the leadership skills development pillar. According to Mann, these include two leadership summits, a convention and a leadership certificate program that provides women with professional training, which in turn can be applied to their own workplace. “Executive presence, confidence, negotiation skills – these are all critical ways that we can build the talent pool in terms of high potential women for executive leadership positions,” Mann said.

The research pillar is exemplified by its goal to increase and distribute information about the commercial real estate field. They produce white papers every year and a benchmark study every five years which show the data on women and their impact on commercial real estate.

Finally, the Crew Careers and UCrew programs are led by the local chapters across the country supporting the career outreach pillar. The programs involve spreading information about opportunities available in commercial real estate to young professionals.

The importance of programs

Heather Fox of the Arizona chapter discussed this important piece of AZCREW and said, “(The career outreach programs) are primarily outreach to young women and girls, that includes high school as well as college, in order to educate and bring awareness to the fact that commercial real estate is a very rewarding, challenging and excellent career option.”

Mann said there are three main ways chapters spread information through career outreach to high school students; these include education days, shadow days and challenges. The time spent with students allows members to share information about all aspects of commercial real estate. “Everything from the finance side to the building side — meaning architecture, design, engineering — and then also the development side — how do you find a piece of land and decide what to develop and how do you do a deal in development,” Mann said.

During education days, members of local chapters will spend a day with high school juniors and seniors informing them about the opportunities waiting for them in a career in commercial real estate. For shadow days, students interested in jobs in commercial real estate will spend a day shadowing a professional. Finally, some chapters hold challenges for a more immersive experience when learning about commercial real estate. Within these challenges, girls are divided into teams and given a piece of land in their community and asked to decide how they would develop it.

CREW Network helps to continue women’s education by providing scholarships to students pursuing commercial real estate as either an undergraduate or graduate student through the CREW Network Foundation. According to Mann, the foundation awards $5,000 scholarships each year to 20 different women, but CREW Network’s assistance doesn’t stop there.

Local chapters set up an outreach program known as UCREW for juniors and seniors in commercial real estate programs at universities. The students come together to shadow and network with professionals in commercial real estate to receive more knowledge about the field and the opportunities available.

AZCREW has started a pilot program with the Master in Real Estate Development, (MRED), program at Arizona State University. “All of the MRED students have a membership in CREW Network and that also includes a membership at AZCREW,” Fox said. “So we’re working with them to explore and figure out how to engage the undergraduate and the graduate students.”

Starting earlier

This is also the first year that AZCREW is bringing the Crew Careers program into high schools. Currently, the only school districts that have the program in place are the Phoenix Union and Tempe Union school districts, but “We hope to invite many more students and include all of the school districts, if possible, as this grows,” Fox said.

AZCREW is looking to continue growing its programs and chapter while spreading awareness about careers in commercial real estate. “The goal is really to provide outreach to the young folks that attend, letting them know that commercial real estate is a valid, rewarding, awesome career for them to consider,” Fox said.

CREW Network as a whole wants to keep working towards global expansion. According to Mann, there are two challenges that CREW Network must continue to meet in order to make this happen. “We have an obligation within our strategic plan to continue to elevate women and create opportunities for women through our training and development and partnerships with our company partners,” Mann said.

The other piece to the puzzle is creating diversity and inclusivity for all women in company leadership positions. “I would like to grow our engagement with our sponsor companies on how we collectively together grow this diversity and inclusion piece,” Mann said. It is important to not only have diverse people at a company but to also make sure everyone feels included, Mann added. CREW Network wants to continue expanding its own diversity by opening chapters and inviting more women into their network from all over the globe.

Commercial real estate is a career option that’s great for all types of personalities and backgrounds, which is what AZCREW under CREW Network is trying to share with the world. “The idea is that everyone’s unique, and they have unique skills and interests,” Mann said. “There’s something for everyone in commercial real estate.”