In the early 2000s, the commercial real estate industry in the Lehigh Valley was strikingly different than today. There was no commercial broker network in the Lehigh Valley. There was no social media. The internet was available, but not as evolved – brokers couldn’t just “google” the information they needed. Resources and networking were different. And for women in a male-dominated industry, networking was even more of a challenge. A handful of female brokers heard about a national networking organization with a mission to advance the careers of women in the real estate industry: CREW. Through their counterparts in Philadelphia and New Jersey, these ambitious women began to explore the organization, as well as the benefits and requirements of starting a local chapter. Eight women pooled their own money to establish CREW Lehigh Valley.
2004 was the first year in which CREW Lehigh Valley was formally organized. For the big kick-off event, the founding members organized a wine and cheese party in an office property in Center Valley. They invited every woman they knew who worked in any aspect of the commercial real estate industry. The original members organized networking lunches for prospective members. The goal: to create relationships, grow the fledgling organization and earn the respect of the Lehigh Valley real estate community. They were jubilant when they arranged the first “hard hat” tour of a major construction project in Bethlehem. An important milestone occurred: the first sponsor signed on to support the organization financially. CREW Lehigh Valley had built a firm foundation.
Fast forward 19 years to today. As CREW members look forward to the upcoming celebration of its 20th anniversary in 2024, it seemed an appropriate time to reflect on the organization that has been built on that foundation. CREW Lehigh Valley boasts over one hundred members, both men, and women. 32 prominent local businesses currently sponsor the chapter, supporting the mission to advance the careers of women in commercial real estate. CREW members are prominent in their fields and have earned recognition as Rising Stars, 40 Under 40, Women of Influence, Athenas, and other professional awards. The organization was honored as the Organization of the Year in 2014 at the March of Dimes Real Estate Awards. The Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce presented CREW Lehigh Valley with the Community Partner Award in 2015.
CREW continues to focus on signature tours of construction projects and educational events. Social events are also embraced by the membership, from lunch-arounds to wine tastings to golf. The chapter actively fundraises for the CREW Network Foundation, a charitable organization that provides career outreach, college scholarships, and benchmark studies/white papers on women’s progress in pay equity, C-suite roles, and other advancements. CREW Lehigh Valley established its own scholarship for a local college student, including a $2,500 award for educational expenses, two-year complimentary student membership in the chapter, and attendance at one event at no cost. CREW Lehigh Valley supports the professional development of its members by sending designated attendees to CREW Network’s national conventions and
summits. The Legacy Committee of past presidents has organized seven professional development summits locally with a wide range of keynote speakers. One of the most popular new events is “Cocktails, Connections & Close-Ups,” a marketplace-styled event that provides a venue for the sponsors to highlight their companies, attendees to network in a fun and relaxed manner, and everyone to receive an updated professional headshot for their social media profile.
And what hasn’t changed? Women seeking out other women to network, do business, mentor, and provide guidance and support. As original members move on in their careers, retire or move out of the area, a new generation has found CREW Lehigh Valley. People seek out CREW Lehigh Valley for the opportunity to do business with top companies and contribute to the economy of our region. Additionally, the newest members have cited the support of knowledgeable experts in numerous fields, the welcoming group, the inspirational atmosphere of events, and the friendships that grow out of business relationships.
Stay tuned for CREW Lehigh Valley’s next decade as the members, sponsors, and other supporters continue to build on the past success and develop new leaders for the Lehigh Valley’s future.