Anne Spencer didn’t have much down time last year. Her commercial real estate job is demanding, to be sure – Spencer is director of Office & Healthcare Brokerage Services at Cushman & Wakefield – but what really sucked up her free time was training.
“I was out in Clermont most of the time, riding my bike.”
The hours logged on those rolling Lake County hills paid off. Back in September, Spencer hit what she calls the climax of her many previous triathlon experiences. She finished the Ironman in Chattanooga, Tenn.
While she’s not planning on doing that epic race again, Spencer has plenty on her plate – a second jaunt through the Chicago marathon, for example. But there are challenges to be met elsewhere, and for something more important than a race medal: the advancement of women in commercial real estate.
When Spencer began her own foray in the field 12 years ago, she immediately noticed something.
“I was the only female broker in my office,” she says. “We had some other women – administrative people, marketing people – but in the brokerage, there were no women.”
She promptly joined CREW (Commercial Real Estate Women) – the association has some 10,000 members nationally – and has been active in its ample Orlando chapter ever since.
“One of the many things CREW does that’s really cool is all this industry research about the discrepancies between men and women: their salaries, how women feel in their careers, what women need to excel and many other types of research. Plus CREW covers all the women in commercial real estate – I’m a broker, but CREW members are also in mortgage, law, development – it’s a broad industry.”
Upon joining the ranks of Cushman & Wakefield five years ago, Spencer noticed the same dearth of feminine faces. But not long after, an opportunity arose when a senior leader put together a committee to help advise the CEO. Spencer was honored to be selected as one of two women in the group.
“…but everyone on the committee was Caucasian; there is some serious homogeny in this business! It got on my nerves.”
Enough that when the new CEO came to one of their meetings to discuss improvements company-wide, Spencer couldn’t stay quiet.
“I said, ‘What about diversity? Look around you….’ And he said, ‘You’re absolutely right – you should start something!’” Spencer laughs. She had herself a new volunteer gig.
“There was already a group loosely started for women…” she explains. It took those on the ground floor about three years to get it going due to a large merger that was in progress at the time, but the employee resource group officially launched last October.
“We’re called WIN – Women’s Integrated Network. Its mission is to help women at Cushman grow in their careers, and we’re offering mentoring and education, webinars, networking. We’re national – because Cushman is huge and right now we’re in the U.S., Canada and Mexico…. We’re encouraging all the offices to have local chapters. In total WIN has more than 1,000 women already.”
She hopes that WIN will one day see the fruits of its labor pay off in more women at Cushman & Wakefield – especially in leadership positions. Spencer’s loftiest dream features a woman on the company’s Board, or even a female president or CEO.
“We have a few (women) running divisions now, but not the entire company – maybe that will happen one day. More realistically, I’d just like to see more women at my company feel as though they belong here, that they are supported – and I’d love to see them supporting other women.”
Despite her desire to see more sisterhood in the ranks, in particular at the C-suite level, the cheery director isn’t a zealot.
She takes no issue at all with the word “Ironman.”