The Tale of CREW Network’s 2018 Winter Leadership Summit

March 9, 2018
Written by: Chris R. Hairston-White

As we pulled up to the Loews’ Ventana Canyon Resort in Tucson, AZ on February 1, Brenda E. Karp, President-Elect 2019 and I were both naïve about what was about to take place during our two days at the 2018 Winter Leadership Summit. On several occasions, we both listened with child-like wonder about the amazing experiences others had that came before us. Our anxiousness subsided quickly when we arrived and stepped out of our Uber driver’s car. We were immediately greeted by sunshine, warm temperatures, and picturesque views. In that instant, we knew we would leave the summit feeling empowered, informed, and ready to share all that CREW Network and its affiliated chapters were doing to advance women in the commercial real estate (CRE) industry globally.

We dove into “Day One” learning the breadth and reach of CREW Network. With 74 chapters and 11,000+ members globally, we have strength in numbers. All the attendees felt they had the support needed to move the needle on closing the aspiration gap in the CRE industry at their local markets with this much muscle. The staggering disparities still facing women in the CRE industry and in the workforce was addressed in CREW Network’s 2016 white paper called “Closing the Gap: Addressing Gender Bias and Other Barriers from Women in Commercial Real Estate”. One of the many overwhelming statistics from the study reveals the #1 factor for the aspiration gap in CRE was women feeling they lack support in the workplace and/or at home to be successful once they are in the C-Suite. Brenda and I, along with the other attendees, were engaged during our breakout sessions coming up with solutions on how to advocate for change in our local markets.

The tale of how real meetings happen around the water cooler after the meeting is absolutely true. The evening of our first day was spent diving deeper about our learnings from our sessions and expanding our network over dinner with our CREW Network Board Liaison, Barbara McDuffie, Managing Director with Baker Tilly and member of CREW Washington, D.C., and other members of various chapters. We could not ignore the energy and passion felt from each of the 16 women around the table. Over a great meal and wine, we bonded and committed to supporting each other’s professional success and chapter’s success. With cellphones in hand and CREW Network’s latest mobile app named “CREWbiz” (A must. . .Download today!), we captured everyone’s contact information on the spot.

CREW is not lacking in highly-confident and competitive members. On “Day Two”, Brenda and I woke up charged on caffeine and a goal we wanted to accomplish before our departure; The Foundation Challenge: 1) 50% Membership, 2) 100% Board Members, 3) $1,000 Chapter Gift to the CREW Network Foundation. The CREW Richmond Chapter had given us a great start. We already had two of the three goals accomplished. With only 10 more members to reach the goal of 50% Membership giving to Foundation, we went into action “smiling and dialing” and emailing our members before our first session. Our members stepped up without hesitation. We’re grateful to our chapter members for allowing us to step into our session humble, yet proud, that CREW Richmond was first to achieve all 3 challenges! The best part was knowing our chapter is committed to bringing more women into the commercial real estate industry with programs that educate women and girls about the career opportunities available to them. The CREW Network Foundation Challenge increases awareness of the Foundation’s powerful reach.

If our members are looking for ways to get plugged in or get more out of their membership, I highly recommend taking full advantage of all CREW Network has to offer. Attending summits and conventions is available to all members and not just those serving on the board. Members are able to get exposed to what’s happening in other markets, which sparks innovation locally and expands networks beyond the Richmond region. There are many opportunities to get involved and increase your professional repertoire like obtaining your CREW Network Leadership Certificate and adding your speaker profile to the CREWbiz directory. A part of being a good leader is also promoting others. One could plant a seed by sharing college scholarship opportunities with a female in college studying a CRE field or raising your hand to volunteer. All these opportunities and more was shared during our sessions. There’s more than enough to get anyone energized.

It was difficult to leave the warmth we felt while in Tucsan. From the weather to the new connections we made during our visit, Brenda and I are forever changed and even more committed to making sure each CREW Richmond Chapter member is able to gain more from their membership. It’s really the responsibility of each of us to push the boundaries in every facet of commercial real estate. We’re waiting to hear from our members on what they need to be successful. Every member of the Board of Directors are available to help our members be a better version of themselves. There’s strength in numbers. We can rest assured about 11,000+ members within our network advocating for each of us, others in our industry, and the future generation of women coming behind us.

We look forward to seeing you get plugged into CREW Network and CREW Richmond in 2018!

View the Leadership Summit photos in our Flickr gallery and event documents and slides in CREWbiz (CREW Network members only).

Chris R. Hairston-White, VP of External Affairs, oversees the Better Housing Coalition’s (BHC), Richmond's largest community development corporation, fundraising, communications and public policy advocacy efforts. Prior to joining BHC, she was a Vice President, Senior Business Banking Relationship Manager at Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., managing a portfolio of business clients with gross annual revenues from $2 million to $20 million. In addition to her position at Wells Fargo, Chris’s 12-year banking career includes retail and commercial banking experience with Premier Bank, Inc. (formerly Consolidated Bank & Trust) and Bank of America. Hairston-White is a CREW Richmond board member and serves as the CREW Network Liaison for the Richmond Chapter.

Brenda Karp, VP of Breeden Realty, has more than 20 years of corporate real estate experience including tenant and landlord representation, site and market analysis, sales forecasting and acquisition due diligence. She has represented National, Regional and Local developers and shopping center owners throughout the state of Virginia. Karp is responsible for securing National, Regional, and Local tenants for Breeden’s Richmond, Yorktown, Newport News and Carrollton, Virginia shopping centers as well as the sale and development of land. Her career has included positions with Divaris Real Estate, The Shopping Center Group, Richfood, and Heilig-Meyers Furniture. Brenda has completed more than 700 leasing and sales transactions, representing in excess of 2.5 million square feet. Karp is a CREW Richmond board member/delegate and is the President-Elect for 2019. She serves as CREW Richmond’s CREW Network Foundation Chapter Champion.