To mark International Women’s Day we asked a cross-section of our female colleagues about their views of working in the property industry. Their responses were both very interesting and extremely varied.
This is what they had to say…
What are the biggest challenges facing women in the property industry?
The biggest concern here is that the property industry remains a highly male-dominated industry where women are hugely under-represented. Many said that they still feel that working in property is thought of as a ‘man’s job’ and that working in what can be perceived as a ‘macho culture’ can be considered intimidating.
What can the industry do to encourage more women into the industry?
“It has to start with schools. We need to show young women that this is a hugely interesting, exciting and rewarding career path that can flex with their life’s journey.”
“Help women tell their stories. Go into schools and let girls (and boys) know what an amazing range of careers are to be had in property.”
“Do more to advertise the reality of a job in the industry to younger people. It’s not as “for men” as people think. And to admit that there are diversity imbalances in the first place. Even that can help to redress the balance.”
“The property industry doesn’t feature in schools as a career avenue so both girls and boys don’t get to consider it until they are older and often post graduate. Increased awareness at this level plus apprenticeships will help with this.”
It’s clear that most young people – both girls and boys – know very little about the very many enormously varied and rewarding careers that are available in the property industry. Careers advice at school rarely encompasses property beyond architecture. That’s why initiatives such as ‘World at Work’ and ‘Urban Plan’, with which we are involved, is so important.
However, the whole industry needs to work much, much harder to get the message across that ‘Real Estate is so much more than people on a construction site!’
What can be done to boost the number of females in senior roles?
As the proportion of people working in property that are women is so small it comes as no surprise that there are very few women working in senior roles. Those that are in senior positions are real role models for those aspiring to join the industry. Indeed, one of our surveyors said that she was inspired by ‘any woman who’s broken a glass ceiling and brought others through with her’.
Almost unanimously our respondents felt that things are improving, albeit it slowly. The general feeling is that the ‘industry is receptive to women taking a lead role’ and that ‘the ground is laid for serious improvement’.
However, there is still a long way to go:
“I thought by this stage in my career that I would be seeing women in all the senior positions across all the industries, but there is still a lack of representation at senior level across the board.”
Certainly, increased female representation within management and senior roles would be a strong motivator for women looking to enter the property industry in the first place.
Many see the main obstacle as ‘how to have kids and not be left behind’.
“Women find returning to work after having a family a huge challenge. However, with the right support and using flexible working, it is possible to keep going through the tough times.”
Making flexible working a reality for all and providing real equality in parental leave are the messages that come across.
However, it is also perceived that flexible working in itself presents its own challenges to career progression:
“As a part time worker, I do feel the need to demonstrate to colleagues that I am just as dedicated as a full-time employee. I think the stigma around part time working is slowly changing, but until it is commonplace among men and women, it will remain a challenge.”
At Malcolm Hollis we have four female partners and nine Associates. Of these four work part time and we also have a number of part-time male employees. We pride ourselves on offering a flexible approach to working – for all staff – and to offer everyone, regardless of sex or hours worked, the same performance-based opportunities for progression.
What’s the biggest myth about the property industry?
> It’s not just a career for men
> That it’s elitist
> That it’s boring
> All anyone in it cares about is money
What advice would you give to younger women starting out in their careers?
“It’s okay to take time to learn the ropes, to make mistakes and to ask for help.”
“Listen to those with experience. Ask senior people that you admire to mentor you.”
“Negotiate – think about what you want and ask for it.”
“Take ownership of your work and take credit where it is due.”
“Say yes to things – you never know where it will take you. You wouldn’t be offered the opportunity if they didn’t think you could do it – and you’ll learn much more that way.”
“Accept that you cannot do everything perfectly! Deciding what tasks to take on and what to delegate (or ditch) makes life manageable.”
“Hard work alone does not guarantee your success. You need to market yourself as well. Network, network, network.”
Does the general pace of gender parity/ equality worry you at all?
In our survey women weren’t concerned about the parity of pay between men and women doing the same job. What does concern many of them is the fact that women earn so much less than men because so few are in senior positions.
Gender equality is discussed and generally promoted within schools but the reality of adult life does not always play out this way. Some think that, still, too many girls are encouraged to go into underpaid, underrated jobs. Careers advice for girls has tended to be less aspirational than that for boys, which means that many girls are still not realising their potential.
The general consensus, however, is that things are moving in the right direction:
“Now that gender parity is on the agenda, I think that the next generation will expect, and demand, gender equality.”
At Malcolm Hollis we are absolutely committed to equal opportunities for all, with progression based purely on individual merit. We also offer all staff the opportunity to request flexible working as well as enhanced maternity and paternity provisions.
We are members of the Nationwide Working Forward campaign which pledges to make workplaces the best they can be for pregnant women and new parents. We are also proud signatories to the RICS Inclusive Employer Quality Mark.
Alison Barnett – IT Administrator, Anne Johnstone – Partner, Emily Sevenoaks – Facilities Assistant, Jade Pitt – Senior Secretary, Joanna Taylor-Smith – CFO, Jo Bell – Associate, Lynsey Pilgrim – Facilities Coordinator, Mel Olrik – Human Resources Partner, Michelle Condon – Business Development Partner, Nikki Themistocleous – Team Secretary and Vikki Aitkenhead – Associate.