In real estate, it pays to put women on the board

by Ryan Smith08 Mar 2018

Real estate is still largely a man’s world, but companies with women on the board are the ones rewarding investors.

Wells Fargo & Co. analysts Jeffrey Donnelly and Dori Kesten examined the gender makeup of boards of 165 U.S. real estate investment trusts from 2006 to 2017. They found that shares of REITs with a greater-than-average share of female directors outperformed REITs with all-male boards by 2.33 percentage points over five years.

While the average representation of women on REIT boards rose to 15.5 percent from 8 percent in the past decade, that still trails the 22 percent average for the S&P 500, according to the study.

“Our purpose here is to shine a spotlight on board diversity in real estate and highlight that the performance benefits of inclusion found in companies globally, applies to real estate companies domestically,” the analysts wrote.

REITs focused on prisons, advertising and energy infrastructure have the highest female representation, while trusts in the industrial, single-family housing and health-care sectors are the worst offenders when it comes to gender diversity, the study found. Timber and data-center REITs have a lower percentage of women on their boards today than they did in 2006.

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