In 2017, CREW Chicago became a sponsor of the Annual Commercial Real Estate Forecast, part of a strategic effort to continue to raise awareness of the organization, its overall goals and the expertise of members (and prospective members).
In advance of the January 17th event, where a number of CREW members will either be panelists or moderators—and the emcee for the event—Amy Blumenthal, CREW president and the managing partner of Gould & Ratner LLP, answered a series of questions from REjournals.
Rejournals: As you take the helm as president of CREW, do you have specific goals in mind for the organization during the course of the next two years?
Blumenthal: The secret to CREW Chicago’s success over the years has been to focus on serving the needs of its members. And our members are looking for a premier organization that can positively impact the commercial real estate industry by advancing the power and success of women. To do that, we seek to attract and retain women from a wide variety of professions that work in the commercial real estate industry, including both “A players” and those looking to become “A players.” We offer some of the best networking of any industry group, as well as a broad array of educational and career resources with our regular lunches, events, podcasts, volunteer programs, scholarships, community outreach and much more.
Of course, given recent current events, we are also going to be focusing on making sure the commercial real estate industry understands that increasing the gender equity and inclusion of women is, plain and simple, good for business. CREW Chicago and our members are committed to taking a leadership role in promoting the greater participation of women at all levels in the commercial real estate industry.
Rejournals: Last November, CREW celebrated its 30th anniversary in Chicago. What are some of the benchmark moments in the history of CREW?
Blumenthal: CREW Chicago is proud to count more than 335 active members currently, which is quite an increase from the 50 or so that attended our first lunch meeting back in September 1987. We have grown from a committed core of volunteers to one of the largest regional chapters in CREW Network globally, with our members coming from a significant diversity of professions and providers that drive the commercial real estate industry. Our annual Industry Leadership Award dinner attracts more than 300 people, and we had more than 1,000 total attendees for our monthly programs last year.
Rejournals: CREW recently became a sponsor of the Annual Commercial Real Estate Forecast Conference. Why now, and how do you think each will benefit from the alliance?
Blumenthal: The Annual Commercial Real Estate Forecast Conference is a great opportunity for CREW Chicago to raise the profile of both the Chapter and our members. The conference has grown to include a terrific gathering of industry experts as well as a broad cross-section of people who are movers-and-shakers in the commercial real estate industry. As mentioned previously, we are always looking for ways to help our members network and meet others who can help them grow and succeed both professionally and personally. And given that CREW Chicago’s membership includes a multitude of “A Players” in commercial real estate, we think the conference definitely benefits from our ability to contribute meaningfully to the content presented and high quality of the audience.
Rejournals: How important is an organization like CREW, especially in what historically has been a male dominated industry?
Blumenthal: One of the very important benefits of CREW Chicago is that we are an expert and strategic voice and resource for women working in commercial real estate. We provide numerous and significant leadership opportunities and profile-raising activities for our members that demonstrate how increasing gender diversity and inclusion for women in commercial real estate makes good business sense. We’re also able to tap into the international CREW Network resources to provide best practices and other data through white papers and studies in 2017 and 2018 that address gender bias and other barriers for women, as well as make the business case for diversity and inclusion.
Rejournals: As an experienced professional in commercial real estate in Chicago, what are your expectations for real estate in 2018?
Blumenthal: My expectations for real estate in Chicago in 2018 are naturally a little cautious—I am a lawyer, after all! But it definitely falls on the more optimistic side of cautious as we are fortunate in Chicago to have a very diverse commercial real estate industry that has continued to benefit from experienced people and companies that are behind a number of smart and strategic projects that continue to move us forward in a variety of sectors—office, retail, industrial, multifamily, etc.—without creating significant bubbles or large troughs. That overall stability gives us a tremendous advantage here in Chicago and the greater Midwest to likely continue with the measured, moderate growth we’ve grown accustomed to in the past several years.