How can we empower women in the property industry?

The property world has traditionally been a male-dominated working environment and continues to show a high proportion of men over women (85% vs 15%) working in the industry.

A report from PWC in 2017 ‘The Real Estate Balance’, highlighted the lack of diversity in the industry and the considerable imbalance between male and females who currently sit on the board of property companies in the UK (81% vs 19% respectively).

Whilst things have changed and seem to be better than before, the property world still needs to realise that the ‘old boy school network’ way of thinking needs to be removed, and male chauvinism eradicated, to create a more diverse and enjoyable place for women to work in.

Here at Making Moves, we were keen to understand the views of a woman in the industry and therefore asked our own Lydia Anastasi, about her own personal experience of working in property.

Have you ever had first-hand experience of being doubted as a woman in the business world?

I have always been fortunate to work within companies who aren’t prejudice towards women. However, on a few occasions I have experienced clients or other individual making comments or having preconceptions towards myself. This is usually down to their egos or lack of self-confidence, meaning that they choose to undermine anyone who is viewed to be in a more junior position – particularly women.

How can we empower women?

By working together and promoting good practice to ensure the working environment for women in property is more approachable.

I personally attend a group called WIBN (Women in Business Network), which is focused on creating business relationships between women. This is a great way to network and to also discuss issues that may come up in the workplace. It’s great to hear about other people’s experiences from different industries and how they handled situations. There are also many other platforms for female entrepreneurs such as Blooming Founders (http://bloomingfounders.com/)who have an amazing support network and host events to encourage women into business.

I also think work/life balance is so important for many working women (and men) who have children. Having flexible hours means that people who are planning to have children can work around this.   

It’s great to see other companies introducing new initiatives, for example Netflix, who for both birth and adoptive parents (regardless of gender) can take up to a year off with full pay following from the birth/ adoption of their child. This encourages more men to take paternity leave in turn allowing more women to return to work if they would like to.

Which women have inspired you?

Something that resonates with me is my business studies teacher telling us a story about how she landed her job at JP Morgan. Her name is Jamie and it was assumed that she was one of the many male candidates that made it to the interviewing stage. When she went into the interview they were surprised that she was a woman. She ended up winning the job. 

Some people will say that she was the best candidate and so she deserved the job. However, I would argue that even though she is an exceptionally talented person, she wouldn’t have got over the first hurdle if they knew she wouldn’t be a typical fit for the job.

So, what can we do to make the property industry more supportive of women?

Many of the larger property companies such as British Land and BNP Paribas have set up their own Women’s network to offer support and guidance to those who want to develop their career. This is a great idea as it also means that companies can retain their talent pool.

The RICS also need to take control of the matter. If they are the governing body for the industry, then they must take responsibility to ensure that the working environment within property is approachable to women.

How can we increase the number of female applicants coming into property? 

Encouraging young women to pursue a career in property starts in schools and colleges. There is a preconception that the industry is off limits to women and this is something that needs to be changed. Hosting events for students would be a good way to inform them about the different opportunities within the industry.

Although the property industry has been a male dominated workplace for many years, this should not put women off applying. More and more female applications are being received, and there are a lot of great opportunities out there (regardless of your gender).

The word ‘property’, covers so many different areas from construction and development to auctions and antiques. With such a high level of role diversity there is sure to be something of interest. The important thing is not to be put off by your gender.

What areas of the industry need still need to change?

In any industry, property included, there are still issues with discrimination which are continuously brushed under the carpet as ‘banter’. This is a very grey area and therefore extremely difficult to resolve. It was shocking to see that only last month, a job for a PA for a property investment company was posted which outlined the skills required as “ability to deal with male banter”. The listing was removed as a result of the outrage it caused on social media. This attitude is not by any means only a problem in the property industry, nevertheless, it needs to be addressed.

 

Whilst we still have a long way to go, the property industry continues to confront the issue of gender equality. We hope that people like our own Lydia will push forward with their careers in property and continue to support other women looking to do the same.

If you work in property and feel threatened or undermined because of your gender, then speak to the RICS or Citizens Advice who will be able to make recommendations on the best course of action.