CREW M, an Industry Force to be Reckoned with

February 2018

By: Stéphanie Lincourt, CPA auditor, CA, Partner, Richter
President of CREW M

The glass ceiling might be starting to crack in the real estate sector. CREW M, the Greater Montréal Area chapter of CREW (Commercial Real Estate Women) Network, is making its presence known in commercial real estate. Created by Élise Gauvreau and Corinne Li, the organization’s membership has practically double over the past five years, and in 2018, CREW M will be celebrating its fifteenth anniversary; a year that will most definitely be celebrated in style.   

CREW Network: Over 10,000 members strong

CREW M is a chapter of CREW Network, an organization with 74 chapters in North America, with one recently opened chapter in London, England. In Canada, CREW Network has chapters in Calgary, Saskatoon, Vancouver, Toronto, Edmonton, and of course, in Montréal’s greater metropolitan area, where it’s known as CREW M. The “M” doesn’t stand for Montréal, as one might think, but rather for “metropolitan,” given that the influence and activities of the chapter now extend well beyond Montréal, to include events in Québec City.

Created in 1989 with the merger of two influential organizations on the east and west coasts of the United States, CREW Network is now present in markets worldwide and has more than 10,000 members. Its main objectives are to stimulate business development among members; to develop leadership skills for women in the industry; and to encourage women to advance their careers and advance the real estate industry as a whole. CREW Network also produces benchmark studies on the industry, which have become an essential source of information for anyone looking to enter different markets.

The cornerstone of CREW Network is undoubtedly its ability to gather numerous multidisciplinary experts in commercial real estate under one umbrella. In other words, CREW Network throws open the doors of commercial real estate and provides direct access to all of its players: real estate developers, architects, engineers, lawyers, accountants, building managers and insurance professionals, to name just a few. These are the people vital to the market, and the individuals that help the real estate industry thrive.  With ample opportunity for networking, bridges between specializations are built, new markets are opened, and developing new business is much easier.

Diversity and Inclusion: Support pillars indispensable to the CREW M mission

CREW M has an important calling: promoting the advancement of women in commercial real estate. But this objective isn’t attainable unless we add diversity and inclusion to our mission. Focusing on diversity and inclusion increases the scope of our mission tenfold. In fact, it’s the cooperation of each and every one of us – a collaborative pooling of different perspectives – that will profoundly transform the industry for the long term. In a vibrant industry like real estate, true collaboration will be achieved when everyone has a voice. This will also be achieved when we hear that glass ceiling break, a sound that we are, unfortunately, not hearing often enough just yet. We can’t let the discussions surrounding the advancement of women in real estate become merely rhetorical. We need to continue conversations around social progress, diversity, and inclusion, because in the end, the advancement of women benefits society as a whole. 

Challenges equal to the mission

The adage “birds of a feather flock together” is often true—getting together is a very human impulse in that we tend to gather with individuals similar to us, because we recognize a part of ourselves in the other person. However, diversity is born of differences. To evolve, move forward and grow, both personally and professionally, there’s nothing better than what I refer to as a “mix of types, styles and generations.” This mix gives us the opportunity to explore methods, perspectives and solutions that we may not necessarily have seen as individuals, or if we were simply “wading in the pool of consensus” all the time. 

As it happens, new synergies stem from openness; and new ideas are born when diverse worlds meet. A conscious, deliberate and concerted effort to be open to differences leads to fresh ideas and concepts. We have to get out of our comfort zone; even though welcoming other points of view or other ways of doing things can sometimes be unsettling, it is the springboard for progress. And participation of unique individuals can be invaluable. Unfortunately, despite our best intentions, there’s still much progress to be made in Québec with respect to inclusion and openness to others, especially with respect to C-suite positions. 

The strength of widely diverse skills

If CREW M has such a strong presence today, it’s also because it organizes numerous activities and events that are conducive to developing the industry: training courses and activities on leadership and communication, networking events, and a mentoring program are just a few of the many initiatives undertaken. Over the past few months, we have increased our presence in the industry and promoted our members through our communications, on social media (Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, and Facebook) as well as through our “Gala Excellence”, thereby boosting our visibility and, by the same token, extending our activities to Québec City.

Over the next few months, we intend to maintain clear communication with our existing members and to attract more players of the industry: men and women of influence who are willing to contribute both directly and indirectly to our mission.

The strength of our network of professionals also lies in the fact that there are numerous areas of specialization, knowledge and expertise involved in commercial real estate. Players from a wide variety of fields contribute to the industry’s vitality, and CREW M is all about bringing these different players together (which is in keeping with CREW Network’s overall mission!)

More than the sum of its parts

What amazes me the most about CREW M is how willing its members are to create something bigger than themselves; to nurture a strong vision, and to go all out in implementing it. During my presidency, I realized that the secret of this great network lies somewhere between the concepts of cooperation, sharing, diversity, synergy, solidarity, and mutual aid. Whether you’re building a building or a career, it’s never built, established, or solidified, alone. It takes a number of direct or indirect players, in the short, medium and long terms, who are solidly committed to the birth, establishment and growth of a career, a market, or a life. Personally speaking, CREW M has transformed me. My participation in CREW M has turned me into a professional with a greater variety of badges to her name, a rich and loyal network, and a business vision geared towards multidisciplinary talents and diversity.

A network such as CREW M is a support structure that is crucial to the achievement of one’s full potential, both on a personal and a professional level. Let it be said and heard: diversity is more than welcome within this network because diversity gives birth to new ideas, new approaches, and new markets.

Even though it is invigorated by a growing membership and increased visibility, CREW M continues to face many formidable challenges. The organization must ramp up its efforts with regard to diversity, with an eye to creating transformation within the industry itself. This will be our mandate for 2018. What’s more, we’ll also focus on engaging those with who have established their own path in the industry, and are willing to help promote women to management positions through mentorship or recommendations. Support from such notable players is crucial in our movement towards greater diversity. With solidarity and cohesion, we’ll go further and push forward not only the careers of our members, but also the commercial real estate market as a whole.

At the dawn of its fifteenth anniversary, CREW M is more present and more formidable than ever before!


This article was originally published in Espace Montréal.

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