CREW Network 2022 Convention
By: Erin O'Leary
Although I have been a member of CREW for several years and serve as Chair of the Membership Committee, I had never attended a CREW Network Convention. After having attended the one this past year in Chicago, I realize how much I was missing.
Over my 20+ years in commercial real estate, I have attended many conventions and conferences and was often one of very few women in the crowd. To be surrounded by more than 1200 like-minded career professionals, mostly women, was an incredible experience.
The keynote speakers were of such a high caliber and added so much to the experience. The opening speaker, Jill Donovan, spoke about how to overcome challenges, no matter what you might face, and how important it is to keep going and be resilient. This set the tone for the entire convention.
Probably my favorite of the keynote speakers was Marci Rossell, a truly engaging and informative economist. She was able to make somewhat dry material interesting and compelling. According to her, we should not believe the doom and gloom and hype in the media – we are NOT in a recession according to economic data and evidence. Some interesting points she made were that as humans, we are evolving to not work harder or longer, but to be more efficient. We had a 7-day work week a hundred years ago and the pandemic may have kicked started us on the path to a 4-day work week. Regardless, those who choose to be fully remote may sacrifice loyalty and connection to people, which is a strong case for the hybrid workplace.
Friday’s keynote speaker was Lisa Ling, who gave her personal story of growing up as a minority in a predominantly white suburb, not having role models that looked like her, is a clear message that representation is so important.
In addition to the keynote speakers, there were a wide variety of breakout sessions to share knowledge on topics ranging from recruiting and retention to valuation, emerging leaders, and being your authentic self. These were mainly set up informally with a more conversational style and were a fantastic way to make connections and share information.
Another of my favorite sessions was the Distinguished Leaders Roundtable. These incredible women were open and honest about adversity they faced, challenges they overcame and answered questions from the audience, allowing for deeper conversation and perspectives. Hearing where people came from and how they got to where they are was so inspiring. There are many different paths to success and there are opportunities out there to find what you love to do.
It was wonderful to see all the various award recipients who give back to CREW Network and receive so much in return. Hearing the CREW Network leadership speak about how far the organization has come and their plans for future growth made me feel more connected to CREW Network, not just CREW Chicago. One of the more emotional moments was the announcement of the CREW Scholarship recipients – there were 25 scholarship winners called up on stage to standing applause. For them to feel the support and see opportunities ahead of them was incredible. I had the opportunity to speak with several of the recipients throughout the convention and they reiterated what a life changing gift the scholarships are.
I was also lucky enough to volunteer at the excursion to the Pullman Neighborhood, which I have always wanted to visit. The CREW Network Convention truly showcased our fantastic city. I volunteered at the “hospitality” table on Friday morning and there was unanimous praise for the dine arounds, excursions and all the hard work that went into planning such a great event.
Overall, it was so valuable to be able to connect with colleagues, and gain insight and knowledge from speakers, panelists and my fellow CREW Members. As Barbi Reuter, current CREW Network President, noted throughout the convention, “We Belong”. We belong at the meeting, in the boardroom, on the call, in the deal - wherever we believe we should be. It was such a welcoming, embracing and supportive environment. I respected that there was captioning and other accommodations for those will special needs in all the main sessions, putting the commitment to DEI efforts in action. I left the 2022 CREW Network Convention motivated and inspired – looking forward to attending next year in Atlanta.