Roots of Change

In an industry moving diversity to the top of its agenda, a local commercial real estate office lauds the benefits of gender balance

Photo: (from left) Lisa Lansink, Lorraine Landgren and Lisa Handa of Colliers International London

THUMB THROUGH A list of local residential realtors and the odds of finding a woman are about even. Do the same with the much shorter list of commercial realtors and the percentage of women drops dramatically.

“It’s surprising there aren’t more women in commercial real estate, when there are so many in residential,” says Lisa Lansink, a broker in the London office of commercial realtor Colliers International. “It’s mostly men and a few women.”

Colliers is unique in the city with an office that’s roughly half women and half men. Not only do the brokers and sales reps break down three-and-three, but the support staff is divided fairly evenly between the genders.

Broker of record Chris Kirwin is male; office manager Piper Badgley is female. And so it goes from the marketing folks to the data intern—it’s about as evenly balanced an office as you will find anywhere.

For the women working there, it creates a welcome ­atmosphere. But beyond that, they believe it provides clients with a more rounded service, offering a variety of ­perspectives when buying, leasing or selling a property.

“We work as a team, the entire office,” says sales rep Lorraine Landgren. “We partner with each other. We do it a lot, even on smaller deals. Clients like that because they can always get hold of someone. And clients often get the perspective of a male and female. Sometimes, there’s something I ­haven’t thought of or vice versa. It works really well.”

“Male or female, we have good people to work with,” says Lansink. “Chris Kirwin has done a good job of bringing people together, not just women but everyone.”

Sales rep Lisa Handa began ­selling commercial real estate a year ago, ­swapping careers dramatically from her chemical engineering background. “This office was a good fit for me,” she says. “There are women at senior levels of many businesses, making real estate decisions. It makes sense to have women like us working with them.”

“It’s surprising there aren’t more women in commercial real estate, when there are so many in residential” —Lisa Lansink

Although there is plenty of pressure in commercial real estate, there are fewer deals that take longer to develop. “You see the crazy schedule of ­residential realtors,” says Landgren. “The whole feel of our office is a lot more relaxed.”

Whatever their gender, commercial realtors are dealing with some of the same market issues as their residential counterparts. “We’re facing a lack of product,” Lansink says. “Investors are looking to purchase properties, and there isn’t much for sale in the market. There’s a lot for lease, but investors want to buy.”  Christopher Clark