CommercialForum hosted its annual Successful Women in Commercial Real Estate series on Tuesday, July 18, along with CREW Chicago and The Goldie Initiative. The series highlighted women in the technology and real estate industries and discussed how technology is changing, disrupting and enhancing the industry. The panel consisted of Constance Freedman of Moderne Ventures, Karin Kraai of Newmark Grubb Knight Frank and Emily Line of Realtors Property Resource®. The panel was moderated by Ginger Downs, CEO of the Chicago Association of REALTORS®.
Where Innovation Spurs From and How it Impacts Our Businesses
Freedman said the easiest way to recognize where innovation will come in is where common issues in the industry lie. She said challenges are present in all aspects of transactions and new technology will come in to make those processes easier. Karin followed by adding that new tech can be put into two categories: embellishers and enhancers. Technology isn’t made to disrupt and hurt the industries it’s serving when used properly.
Realtors Property Resource® and How Data Helps Realtors®
Line, the Vice President of Commercial Services at RPR, emphasized how using rich data is the key to running a successful business. Realtors Property Resource® does all the leg work of studying your business, consumer spending, demographics and the economy and then lets you generate a report with a few clicks. In-depth data like salaries, income, where consumers are charitable and what memberships they have will help navigate the future market of Millennials.
Low Numbers of Women in the Tech Industry & How to Improve
Line started by mentioning the wage gap between women and men in senior commercial real estate roles. She then said a way to boost women up is to provide mentorship to fellow women. Mentors are great assets in any field and can create lifelong relationships. She mentioned having diverse people in our lives allows us to become stronger. Freedman followed by saying diversity creates better companies; to change issues like the wage gap and fewer women in the industry, we need to raise enough awareness to create this change.
Kraai touched on The Goldie Initiative and that their main goal is to raise women up in the commercial real estate industry. She said a difficult but necessary task is allowing people to get to know you. Commercial real estate requires you to be assertive but also compromising and allowing others to know you personally allows for greater business transactions. Kraai finished by saying diverse workplaces with more women involved statistically have better bottom line profitability.
Chicago Tech Scene
Freedman started off by reminding us why so many tech companies are moving to Chicago. The cost of living is 30 percent of what it is on most coasts, many young Millennials move here after graduation and there are a wide variety of investors. She also highlighted challenges that may ward companies off. The number of investors for very small and very large companies is easily found; the problem area lies in finding investors for mid-size companies that are a few years off the ground.
Downs then asked the panel how those interested in investing and growing the tech scene can get involved. All three panelists agreed that the simplest way is to show up, attend events and make yourself known. Line also reminded attendees that user feedback is crucial to companies growing in the right direction.
Smart Companies & Cities
As the Millennial generation enters the workforce, the need to adjust company culture and perks grows. Freedman noted that cities making tech-related updates, such as bike sharing, online safety alerts and crime management attract a younger population. Line said many companies are making similar technology shifts in their machinery and day-to-day processes as well. Kraai said this is also able to be seen in the commercial real estate sphere, because as companies acquire new spaces, they often want more environmentally-friendly and efficient buildings with shorter leases than the traditional term. All panelists touched on co-working spaces and are interested to see how company cultures adjust with their spaces and collaboration styles.