Reflection on Commercial Real Estate Women (CREW) Network Annual Convention

Principal, Kristine Barr Shares Key Takeaways from the CREW Network 2020 Convention

Day One

CREW Convention 2020 was a lot different than what we are traditionally used to. For the first time, all of the keynotes, sessions, and networking opportunities were done virtually. I was unsure about how things would go, but then I remembered there is nothing that the ladies of CREW cannot do! I was inspired throughout the three days with the thoughtful presentations of each and every speaker. Christine Gorham, Director of Development for Caddis Healthcare Real Estate and President of CREW Network made our 12,000 members proud. Her opening keynote with Revathi Roy, MD and CEO of Hey DeeDee, immediately set the tone of the convention: globally empowering women from around the world. After hearing Revathi’s story, I realized that women from all countries, across each hemisphere, and continent are out here affecting change and championing women.

This realization was solidified after sitting in on the Workforce 2030 session sponsored by RealMassive. Dr. Shirley Davis, CEO of Global Enterprises shared that the work, workers, and workplace of the future will continue to undergo a dramatic transformation. Workers in 2030 will be older and younger at the same time, more educated and less skilled, hyper-connected through new technologies, and more ethnically diverse. Its vitally important that our organizations are ready with new strategies, competencies, and skills to harness the benefits of the global shifts that will occur. As Dr. Davis said, “Leaders must be ready to deal with the complexities of workplace diversity by leading across differences” because different groups define needs, expectations, and work ethics in different ways. In addition, values/personalities, world views, and communication vary tremendously among a diverse workforce.

All of that and it’s still only Day One!

Day Two

Highlights for Day Two included a diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) Deep Dive: What are you afraid to ask? This session, led by professional coach and consultant from Shaffer Coaching, LLC, Amanda Shaffer. Amanda provided a safe space with a few ground rules for discussing diversity, equity, and inclusion. So many firms have started to look more closely at DEI culture that its important to know where to start without fear of saying or doing the wrong thing. At the beginning of the session, Amanda asked that everyone agree to the following ground rules:

  1. Stay mentally present even if it’s uncomfortable
  2. Use “I” statements and focus on your personal questions, struggles, or understanding
  3. Listen with an open mind (try to understand/don’t try to come up with a response)
  4. Encourage everyone to participate
  5. Acknowledge that DEI is an ongoing process of understanding
  6. Assume ignorance and not malice when discussing specific examples

These are guidelines that we can all use as we continue to cultivate cultures where people thrive. In addition, Amanda suggested using the following questions as a starting point for DEI discussions:

  1. How is heightened awareness about DEI impacting you?
  2. What actions from leadership would be most important to you?
  3. What would you want to share about your personal experience or challenges?

I finished Day Two looking forward to sharing these ideas and more with my colleagues on the Diversity and Inclusion Committee at GHT.

Day Three

On Day Three, I was ready to hear from Holly Neber, CEO with AEI Consultants, and Executive Coach and Facilitator, Sharon Krohn regarding engagement and retention of our most valuable team members during challenging economic times. My favorite segment of their presentation was how to create an engaging virtual culture to attract and retain highly effective talent. The idea of positioning and considering your brand is very important because how you present your company can clarify your core company values to potential employees and build the trust of existing employees. Holly and Sharon suggested that you prepare, practice, and be professional when conducting virtual meetings, seminars, and interviews.

Prepare:  When you’re preparing to present information to your employees or to interview potential recruits in the virtual space, you should consider your company persona and which channels you’re using to present your company, i.e., your website, LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook. Your company’s persona is influenced by your corporate culture and how people experience you on your different platforms. You should celebrate your core values and culture when you’re considering new hires and once you bring someone on board, make sure that a cultural orientation occurs so that new employees feel welcome and reinforce your culture and core values when you’re communicating with your existing employees.

Practice:  Nothing can take the place of practice. In a time of uncertainty, it’s more important than ever to communicate effectively with your teams. Be very clear and transparent and in the words of Winston Churchill be “brutally honesty but with a dose of optimism” when delivering tough updates. The more you practice the better you get at it. Holly and Sharon suggested that you consider what you want to accomplish with your communications. Consider how you want to show up – what do you want people to think, feel, and do?  Consider questions that incorporate your corporate core values and record your interviews so that you can go back and think about ways to improve the process in the future. Be innovative. There are a lot of interesting ways to collaborate on a virtual platform – be creative and align your corporate identity with the systems that you use.

Professionalism:  Its important to be authentic and be prepared. Curate your space to the extent that you can but be flexible in the moment when the unexpected happens. Be aware of your personal presence and connect to what it really means to be a professional in these challenging times.

There are many different platforms and technologies we can use. But nothing replaces human contact. As leaders, it’s important that we reach out to our team members and focus on making sure that people are getting some one-on-one attention.

The biggest takeaway was: Your personal presence, who you are, and how you show up makes a difference. Bring your authentic self to every conversation one conversation at a time.


These were three action-packed days of sessions and keynotes. I included some of my favorites in this recap, but I came away with valuable tools to use each and every day.  It was a great way to learn, network, and hear from commercial real estate women from around the world.


Kristine Barr, CDT develops and implements GHT’s firmwide programs for project development, budgeting, scheduling, resource management, construction phase administration, and staff training. She provides critical project and client coordination that ensures our workload and deliverables stay on track. Offering seasoned experience in engineering, construction, and project management operations, Kristine is recognized as a leader in the field of program management.