CB Richard Ellis’ top three annual international producers in 2008 were, for the first time in its 10-year history, female.
Mary Ann Tighe ripped the top-office-leasing crown from the head of dealmaker Bob Alexander, completing 5.6 million square feet in transactions; Susan Kurland unseated broker David Conn from the top-retail-leasing throne, placing, among other stores, a 25,000-square-foot American Girl in Boston, and another in Minneapolis; and Darcy Stacom (with partner Bill Shanahan) wielded the GM Building sale, among other blockbusters, to depose power broker Jeff Dunne and secure the top-grossing investment-sales position.
Could commercial real estate be evolving from a testosterone-infused caricature of über-masculinity?
“The gender issue has faded, but it hasn’t disappeared,” Ms. Tighe said. “If Hillary Clinton taught us anything, it’s that it hasn’t disappeared. But when we deal with our customers, in terms of corporate America, I would say the gender issue is disappearing.”
Suffice it to say, in commercial real estate, which is in some ways the rather more conservative stepchild of corporate America, things move a bit slowly. When, after all, is the last time you saw a broker of color?
“It’s always easier to have somebody who resembles yourself; I think that’s just human nature,” Ms. Tighe said. “I do think that in the last decade that’s begun to change, and pick up momentum.”
Evolution is, after all, a lengthy process, particularly in an industry so mulishly averse to it. In 1984, when Ms. Tighe was entering real estate, she chose to work at Edward S. Gordon in part because the legendary Carol Nelson was a lead broker there, and the only example of a top woman broker in New York. Ms. Nelson would later become Ms. Tighe’s mentor.
It was also in 1984 that Ms. Tighe met Ms. Stacom, who had an extremely encouraging mentor in her father, a top broker at Cushman & Wakefield.
“I met Darcy 25 years ago, when her dad interviewed me about coming to Cushman & Wakefield,” Ms. Tighe reminisced. “He walked me outside his office to a cubicle. There sat Darcy in a cube with a long braid down her back. He said, ‘I just want to show you that women can be brokers, too.’ That was Matt Stacom. Nineteen eighty-four.” It was around the same time that Ms. Kurland got into the industry.
Jennifer McCool, president of the Association of Real Estate Women, told The Observer that the CBRE news “says a lot for how far women are coming in real estate.”
“Though, once you gave me their names, it didn’t surprise me at all.”