Most professionals, at some point in their career, have been fortunate to have a mentor. A mentor can serve as a wise and trusted counselor and/or as an influential sponsor or supporter. In commercial real estate, a mentor can help build a foundation on which an individual’s career can grow and flourish.
Research shows that men are more likely to have mentors in the work place than women. One survey reports that women have a tendency to believe that hard work alone, not connections, account for advancement. Research also states that women often prefer a female mentor, and in many professions, women in senior roles are few and far between.
Despite making headway in commercial real estate in recent years, men still outrank and outnumber women in leadership roles. However, women in the industry need look no further than CREW San Diego to find mentors, role models and more.
CREW (Commercial Real Estate Women) San Diego is the local chapter of a national network of 8,000 members in 74 major markets across North America. Founded in 1984 as a networking organization, CREW also supports philanthropy, education, skills development and mentoring.
Anne Benge, president of Unisource Solutions, a furniture management and facilities services company, is a former CREW San Diego president and longtime member who is still actively involved in mentoring. “Having strong mentor relationships, and in turn, mentoring others, is a great educational and career advancement tool for women,” Benge said.
Benge spent the past year mentoring Alison Roach, a senior at San Diego State University who she studies real estate. The women meet regularly to discuss Roach’s future and how to be successful in commercial real estate, as well as life in general. Benge provides guidance on a variety of issues from creating a business plan to how to be assertive.
Roach was enthusiastic to learn about CREW and meet Benge.
“There aren’t a lot of women in commercial real estate,” Roach said.
“I wanted to have a mentor who could teach me to succeed without having to lose my femininity.”
Earlier this year, Roach was awarded a $10,000 scholarship from the CREW Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the organization.
“Finding a mentor – or a series of mentors throughout your real estate career – is just the first step,” Benge said. “Using a mentor effectively is very important.”
Benge has been mentoring young women for nearly five years and encourages them to realize that nothing in regards to their career is too trivial to be discussed, and that they shouldn’t hold back. Benge said mentors are like a personal trainer who gets you to the gym, and an effective mentor will make you accountable to your goals.
Like having a mentor, education is an important part of ongoing career growth. San Diego has multiple venues to become better schooled in commercial real estate issues, including programs at SDSU, the University of San Diego and University of California, San Diego. Professional commercial real estate organizations such as CREW, the Urban Land Institute and NAIOP also provide educational programs.
This year, CREW San Diego is offering leadership workshops that will provide members with skills training and development in such areas as public relations tactics, thought leadership and networking.
“Our members need skills that will help them implement their career plans. Leadership workshops will provide specific training to expand on lessons learned from mentors, sponsors, supervisors and others” said Kellie Hill, CREW San Diego’s president-elect and vice president of Cassidy Turley BRE Commercial.
“One of the exciting aspects of CREW is that it brings together professionals in real estate at various phases of their careers,” Hill said. “Whether it is in a one-on-one mentoring session, a leadership workshop or an educational luncheon, our members are sharing experiences and learning from each other.”
CREW isn’t just for women – men are always welcome to join. Over the years, several men have held leadership roles with CREW San Diego.
Warren is president of TW2 Marketing, Inc. and provides public relations support to CREW San Diego.