Building gender parity in the real estate industry

Shaking Hands
Posted 2021-12-09
Commercial Real Estate Women's Vancouver chapter (CREW), together with local developer, Conwest, is advancing gender parity in the industry with the creation of a new Women in Real Estate Award for ambitious undergraduate women at the UBC Sauder School of Business.

The CREW Vancouver and Conwest Award for Women in Real Estate was created in remembrance of UBC alumnus and commercial real estate agent, Lee Hester (Diploma in Urban Land Economics ‘93), to honour his commitment as a member and true ally of CREW’s mission to empower women in the real estate industry. The award not only aims to help students achieve their academic goals financially, but also build their confidence as they approach their future careers by introducing them to a network of women who have found success in the industry.

As a woman who graduated from UBC Sauder’s BCom ‘08 program with a specialization in real estate, a representative for donor Conwest, and General Manager at Conwest, Alicia Chung, recognizes the importance of this award.

Pictured: General Manager at Conwest Alicia Chung
General Manager at Conwest Alicia Chung

“The commercial real estate community in Vancouver is traditionally male-dominated,” says Chung. “From my graduating class, I recall that approximately 30 per cent of students were women and only a handful of those women are still in the industry today.”

For Chung, this award is an opportunity to give back and create a new generation of passionate women in real estate by supporting them in their transition from post-secondary to the working world.




Celebrating the 2020 award recipients

Fifth-year BCom student, Jeshin Toor, and recent graduate, Claire MacDonald, are equally thrilled to be honoured as the inaugural recipients for the Women in Real Estate Award.

Toor was in her third year specializing in marketing when she enrolled in her first real estate course and fell in love with the tenacious mindset she developed in class. She decided to take the plunge and extend her degree to pursue a double specialization in marketing and real estate.

Pictured: Fifth-year BCom student Jeshin Toor
Fifth-year BCom student Jeshin Toor

In class, we learned about the competitive nature of the real estate industry. I enrolled in UBC networking events and student panels but only saw men involved,” says Toor. “Despite this, I was drawn to the evolving industry and knew that I have the curiosity and drive to pursue a career in real estate.”

This pursuit strengthened Toor’s academic performance, helping her achieve the highest average in her academic record and Dean’s List notation.

“I appreciate CREW and Conwest for providing me with an abundance of opportunities that support me towards a future career in real estate. Now, I can work harder and contribute to the representation of women in real estate.”


Pictured: Recent BCom graduate Claire Macdonald
Recent BCom graduate Claire Macdonald

For MacDonald, a BCom alum who majored in finance, her interest in real estate was sparked by a summer internship at PCI Developments, where she quickly became drawn to the vibrant environment that offered her work on dynamic projects.

“At an industry event I attended, I was the only woman there,” recalls MacDonald. “That is why this award means so much to me. Industry organizations like CREW and Conwest have made invaluable improvements in the culture of real estate by creating spaces to empower women.”

MacDonald now works as an Asset Management Analyst at Low Tide Properties and hopes to inspire other women students to act on their real estate dreams.


Continued support for UBC’s women in real estate

This year’s award recipients, BCom students Madeline Rainer and Freya Carson, were recognized by CREW and Conwest for their exceptional academic standing and demonstrated passion for real estate.

Rainer, now in her fifth year of studies, recalls debating between a finance or real estate specialization. She chose real estate for two reasons: it has an inspiring community impact and UBC Sauder’s program is deeply connected to the local industry.

Pictured: Fifth-year BCom student Madeline Rainer
Fifth-year BCom student Madeline Rainer

“UBC Sauder has given me the opportunity to meet so many incredible people in the real estate industry,” says Rainer. “Through classes, case competitions, and awards like this, I feel like breaking into the industry is within arm’s reach.”

Rainer, who has experience empowering women as a student leader in her UBC Sororities and Young Women in Business communities, says staying motivated can be a challenge in the male-dominated real estate environment.

“I recently participated in a case competition where there were no other women which could have been an intimidating experience,” says Rainer. “This award is a great source of recognition and creates a safe space for us to know that we are good enough to pursue real estate.”

Pictured: Fifth-year BCom student Freya Carson
Fifth-year BCom student Freya Carson

Carson, also in her fifth year, found herself actively engaging in networking events hosted by the UBC Real Estate Club and UBC Sauder’s Hari B. Varshney Business Career Centre. She was most captivated by the ever-changing nature of the industry and people’s stories that went along with it, prompting her to choose it as her specialization. Last summer, she landed an internship at the sought-after commercial real estate company, JLL.

“Immersing myself in real estate through classes and work experience has given me exposure to the industry and helped me navigate my career interests,” says Carson. “I am grateful to be connected with CREW and Conwest through this award and for their ongoing support as I finish my last year of studies."

Shining the spotlight on the opportunities for young women

As a former CREW Vancouver board member and representative of the donor, Chung hopes that this award will shine the spotlight on the vast resources that CREW Vancouver provides to women who want to learn about the real estate industry in a non-intimidating environment.

“Early in my career I was given the advice to build relationships in the industry,” says Chung. “CREW helped with that immensely by connecting me to a network of like-minded professionals sharing a passion for real estate. I started out as a volunteer and went on to serve the board.”

The CREW Vancouver and Conwest Award for Women in Real Estate offers so much more than financial support. The recipients are now part of a pipeline of young women who are presented with opportunities like mentorship, coffee chats, industry events, volunteering, and even exclusive building and site tours. All of these opportunities aim to reduce the barriers to entry for resilient women like Toor, MacDonald, Carson, and Rainer, so they can thrive in the real estate industry.