2018 CREW Network Convention and Market Place Article by Olivia Wirth

November 16, 2018
Written by: Olivia Wirth
2018 CREW Network Convention: A love letter.

After a few months in commercial real estate, I began searching for female mentors to help guide me through the hurdles of being a woman in a male-dominated industry. Per a colleague’s suggestion, I attended a CREW Chicago coffee and conversation and felt like I had found my life raft: a group of brilliant, professional women in CRE. Unfiltered, women shared stories with me that made me realize that I am not alone, and in fact, that many of them had worked hard to pave a road to success for women like me. One story in particular comes to mind of a fellow CREW member being sent home with a group of women colleagues for wearing slacks to work in protest of their strict dress code. 

Discovering that I had to wait another year before officially joining CREW as an associate member was a blow; however, I continued to benefit from CREW’s public educational events as well as the knowledge and unwavering support of my new friends in the organization. Since my official membership, those benefits have grown exponentially due to heavy involvement on two committees. 

This being my introduction to CREW Chicago, very little surprised me about my first experience at CREW Convention this year. The warm welcome I received from CREW members from other chapters; the ease at which women discussed their personal and professional successes and challenges; the honesty, authenticity, and candor; all were within my expectations of how CREW Network manifests on a global level. 

The most memorable session of the convention was Alison Levine’s awe-inspiring presentation on her experience leading the first American Women’s Everest Expedition. Climbing the mountain requires thoroughly acclimating one’s body to high elevation through a relentless process of climbing, returning to base camp, climbing higher, returning to base camp, and so on. From this experience, she learned something that resonated with all of us: backing up is not the same as backing down. Taking a step back, regrouping and reassessing allows us to move forward again with heightened confidence and experience. Moments of “backing down” are often crucial steps in reaching our ultimate goals. On her first attempt, Alison’s team had to head back down the mountain only a few hundred feet short of the peak due to harsh weather conditions. She was proud of her accomplishment, but others viewed it as a failure because she had not made it to the top. Combatting the discouragement of our failure-intolerant society was a challenge, but Alison was able to remain confident in her experience on the mountain and eight years later, she led another women’s Everest expedition, which made it to the 7th and final summit, and completed the Adventure Grand Slam. 

Throughout the week, the general and breakout sessions continued to be informative and inspiring. Hessam Nadji, President and CEO of Marcus & Millichap described how consumer habits and technology are changing dramatically and reshaping commercial real estate in all sectors. Susan Ansel and Hilary Provinse of the Distinguished Leaders Roundtable encouraged audience members to be lifelong learners and operate with a sense of urgency to achieve their team members’ goals. And Good Morning America co-host, Robin Roberts attributed her personal and professional success to dreaming big and thinking small, positioning herself in close proximity to opportunity, and making short term sacrifices to support her long-term goals. 

One of Robin Roberts’ final comments during the post-presentation Q&A was that optimism is a muscle that gets stronger with use. It can be a challenge to exercise that muscle daily in the male-dominated world of commercial real estate; however, at CREW Convention I think all of us got a break from having to try so hard. The abundance of executive women in commercial real estate all at one venue felt like a peek into the future of this industry, and as a result optimism was plentiful.  

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