Female professionals were disproportionately affected by COVID-19 but have pushed through to a present that they hope holds more promise.

The saying goes that Ginger Rogers did everything Fred Astaire did, but the actress, singer and dancer during the Golden Age of Hollywood did it backwards and in high heels. It hits at the fact that a woman has to work harder to keep up, especially in male-dominated industries such as commercial real estate. That’s in normal times; then along came a pandemic.

“I feel like this shutdown is disproportionately affecting women with jobs and kids, who are expected to be teachers, moms and workers all at once now that schools have shut down,” Laura Bassett, Jezebel magazine’s editor-in-chief, posted on March 17, 2020. “That is a lot of work.”

Mothers or not, women were far more vulnerable to the pandemic’s professional impacts, including mass layoffs, furloughs and slashed schedules, reported Bisnow. Calling COVID-19’s impact on the commercial real estate industry like that of a “precision bomb,” the news outlet noted that exacerbating this pandemic job adversity was the fact that women hold lesser seniority than men in general and specific industries that were hit hardest are female-heavy ones, including leisure and hospitality.

Calling it a “she-cession,” Forbes reported 12.2 million job losses for women in the first two months of the crisis alone, more than 1 million more than what men suffered during that time span. Since then, men regained employment at triple the rate of women, according to January 2022 U.S. Department of Labor Data. Forbes added thatmen vastly outstripped the number of women getting new jobs by orders of magnitude” during the peak of omicron: 875,000 new jobs to just 62,000 for women.

Remember this isn’t just loss of income, it’s also losing the possibility of wage increases and promotions. In the commercial real estate industry, women experienced stalled career growth, including limited training and mentorship opportunities. Many women were asked to do more with less.

”There’s a mentality of ‘Yes, yes, yes. We understand that you are carrying a heavy burden, but this still has to get done,'” Jenna Kirkpatrick Howard, a senior vice president at Lockton Cos., told Bisnow. “There was a lot of this pace that is unsustainable… because there is no end to my workday, and the family demands are greater than they’ve ever been before. How do you manage that and communicate that to a boss or manager or your company?” 

As discussed in this space, some positives did come from the pandemic, especially increased flexibility from working from home to a hybrid office approach. Although 83 percent of CRE women respondents to a July 2021 CREW Network Research Survey managed the majority or at least half of the family care, once in-person school resumed for many households the home office became more peaceful and productive for stay-at-home and stay-working mothers.

Despite women making up just 23.5% of the 91 CRE firms’ highest-ranking executives, according to Bisnow’s analysis, the flexibility focus of the past two years in the industry perhaps has shown a greater light on the real juggle that working women have to negotiate daily. The working world has Zoomed in on these essential professionals, “seeing us in our element and knew that it was OK to be both people”— a mom and businesswoman.

“At infinitee, we know our strategic approach, personal touch and limitless possibilities mentality are at their best with a diversity of talents, perspectives and experiences, with women being a huge part of that,” said Tim Patton, infinitee’s President. “The past two years have brought massive change to CRE and we hope a big good to come from that is more women in decision-making positions.”



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