CBRE’s Women’s Network Benefits the Company and Community
Natalie Bazarevitsch, senior vice president at CBRE, remembers the beginning of the firm’s Women’s Network. It was in 2000 at a CBRE World Conference in Las Vegas. Lisa Koniecka of CBRE’s Chicago Downtown office, who joined CBRE through the Koll acquisition, lead a group of women who wanted to network with their counterparts across the U.S. Thirty-five women met for the first time as a group. Sixteen years later, more than 3,000 professionals worldwide now comprise the Women’s Network. Its mission is to promote the success of women ”through its tenets of Growth, Connection & Mentorship.”
As Bazarevitsch shares, women brokers, for various reasons, don’t always pursue the path of brokerage or if they do, they do not stay in brokerage long term. “How do we change that?,” she asked. The same goes for women in top-tier positions in commercial real estate. “CBRE is looking at how we level the playing field, in terms of opportunities for women in key leadership positions,” she said.
In addition to its annual forum in Chicago, the Women’s Network includes quarterly calls with the company’s executive leadership, incubating programs that are rolled out nationally. On a local level, the CBRE Women’s Network Field Delegate program fosters ongoing professional development and networking opportunities within each region across the country and in many parts of the world. CBRE Cares, the company’s corporate giving, employee matching and volunteerism organization, and the firm’s Mentor-Protégé program, are but two initiatives that sprung from CBRE’s Women’s Network.
Bazarevitsch notes that the industry overall could still do a better job of promoting women and looking at a more diverse pool of candidates to fill top leadership positions within the commercial real estate sector. “We don’t have a lot of women in top leadership roles, but we’re making strides. Our clients are doing the same thing, looking at diversity overall, and not just gender, because there’s so much talent out there that just hasn’t been tapped.” Natalie has been a member of NAIOP throughout her career, serving on the Inland Empire Chapter’s Board, also as its President, and now sits on NAIOP’s SoCal Chapter Membership Committee.
Allison Schneider Kelly, a first vice president at CBRE and a field delegate for the Orange County chapter of the Women’s Network shares her experience at the local level. She and her co-delegate Kristina Metzger began the chapter by taking the time to first understand what the women in this region could benefit from. By creating a survey they quickly learned that professional development, networking and philanthropy opportunities were largely what was missing and what was desired.
“We built a program around these needs with quarterly events such as intentional networking via the ‘Lean In Circle’ method (more info at LeanIn.org), a multi-meeting series with a professional from ‘Gallup Strength Finders’ to help women understand their strengths and how to turn them into competitive advantages, and panels of speakers — both from CBRE and outside the company — offering perspective and lessons learned from their career experiences and opportunities to serve philanthropically in the local community,” Kelly shares.
The greatest advantage of the CBRE Women’s Network is that it is an incredible internal resource for professional and personal growth. When you can naturally meet and connect with people in CBRE’s many lines of business, learning occurs, connections are made, and opportunities open up. Whether it’s opportunities to expand a book of business with new resources or an opportunity for an entirely new job, the Women’s Network promotes the organic growth of women within the organization, therefore encouraging great talent to grow and stay with the company.
“We’ve received a great deal of positive feedback where people feel they are benefiting from being a part of the Women’s Network, empowered by having access to new resources and connections to new people where they can continue to grow and be successful at CBRE.”