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Why Women Should Dominate Commercial Real Estate

Posted by Elena del Valle on April 16, 2013

By Viola Sanchez
Southeast Division, Vice President
PS Business Parks

Viola Sanchez

Viola Sanchez, vice president, Southeast Division, PS Business Parks

Photo: PS Business Parks

I am a woman. This is not a new found realization or one that should come across as a monumental statement. However, in my line of work, commercial real estate, it still remains a pejorative point of differentiation, albeit less so in recent years. Nevertheless, it is time we move past false rhetoric and forge a future of equality based on factual data and a little “women’s intuition.”

Commercial real estate and its myriad of sectors and nuances make for a fascinating field. Recently women have begun to enter the industry in earnest and currently account for 43 percent of the workforce. However, many have yet to reach the higher ranks of leadership.

Contrary to popular belief, commercial real estate is not just solely about brick and mortar or space and place. It also includes contract negotiations, relationship management, law, finance and more. These are skill sets and industries that women have been adept within for years.

Women are multi-taskers, go-getters, focused and strong workers – if a woman can adapt in the field, she’ll more than likely be employed for life. With regards to commercial real estate negotiations, women are more likely to approach the decision making process differently than their male counterparts, which may be helpful. Objectivity during key negotiations is just one area a woman will find strength. According to one study (, men tend to make decisions using rules, regulations and tradition, but their female counterparts are less constrained by rules and more prepared to “rock the boat.”

When it comes to relationship management, women are prone to cooperation, collaboration and consensus-building. Women’s inquisitiveness allows them see more than one solution to a problem, which most often leads to the best bottom line decisions for the company. My experience in commercial real estate points to all of those qualities as keys for long-term success.

So, if women were naturally wired to be leaders in commercial real estate, why are there so few in the industry? Glass ceilings are indeed present, but are probably not as much to blame as the “sticky floor.” Coined by leadership expert Rebecca Shambaugh, the term “sticky floor” refers to one’s self-defeating or self-limiting actions. “I see women holding themselves back more than society ever could. And they usually do it to themselves quite unknowingly,” Shambaugh says in her book, It’s Not a Glass Ceiling–It’s a Sticky Floor, “When I see women capable of executive suite leadership mired in middle management, I don’t look for the glass ceiling anymore. Instead, I look for a sticky floor.”

Overall, similar challenges within commercial real estate arise for both men and women, but women still have some societal stereotypes and barriers to break through. Once they do, as the industry is already beginning to see, they’ll undoubtedly be successful. And, at the core of it all, isn’t that what we all want?

Viola Sanchez joined PS Business Parks in 2001 as the Southwest Regional Manager and in 2004 relocated to the Miami market. Currently, she is responsible for property operations in the Southeast division consisting of over 3.5 million square feet of office, flex and industrial product. Prior to joining the company, Ms. Sanchez managed and leased commercial real estate portfolios for the Lamar Companies, John Burnham Real Estate and the Koll companies.