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How real estate firms can knock down gender imbalances in the workforce

26 May 2020

How real estate firms can knock down gender imbalances in the workforce

BEGINNING AT THE SOURCE, RECRUITING NEW FEMALE TALENT HELPS BALANCE GENDER DIVERSITY RIGHT FROM THE START

It’s no secret that the real estate industry is male-dominated.

While a recent report encouragingly suggests that the number of women on FTSE 100 boards has almost doubled over the last 4 years to 25%, women account for only 15% of roles in property. Why is this?

Many factors contribute to this visible lack of women in the real estate industry, including the traditional work environment that’s not always flexible for women with children and many roles still being seen as male-dominated playing out in some workplaces.

This isn’t to say change isn’t happening in some real estate firms. As a woman currently holding a Directorship at a real estate recruitment company in London,  I am seeing first hand more women taking a number of career paths typically occupied by men such as Capital Markets, Rating, Fund Management, Research and Analysis. Indeed, Savills have over 50% of females in their workforce and fully embrace gender diversity. This is very encouraging. But despite these positive moves in the right direction, the real estate sector overall is still far from achieving a more balanced workforce.

Whilst benefits of a more diverse workforce in areas such as income, culture, age and functional expertise are well-known, benefits of gender balance are often underestimated.  By creating a more gender-balanced workplace, we can all benefit from women being included in decisions at all levels; women can offer a different perspective to problems and statistics show that they are more risk-averse than men, something the government is keen to highlight following on from the 2008 collapse of the banking industry. It is no coincidence that at the time of the banking crisis, just 2% of all bankers were women. Culture, customer satisfaction, needs of shareholders and the local community are all taken into greater consideration by women.

But just as importantly, women in senior positions, particularly on boards, are seen as strong role-models. Research shows that this can have a positive effect on more junior female employees’ performance and also boosts companies’ images. Some investment managers even go so far as to use gender balance as one of the key criteria for basing investment decisions on companies.

So what can be done to change this imbalance? In the candidate-short market we are in, recruitment strategies that attract the right candidates from diverse backgrounds is essential.  Real estate firms need to enlist both female and male employees to create interest in their companies. Females should be included at every stage of the recruitment process, from writing adverts, pre-screening, interviewing and negotiating salaries and packages and enlisting the help of female recruiters if required.

Females can also be more prevalent in PR campaigns and public speaking events to publicise how they have achieved their goals and spread the word that other women can do the same, even in male-dominated fields such as real estate. Groups such as RE:Women are already going some way in promoting women’s equality in the workplace. With inspiring, successful female speakers from real estate firms who talk about the challenges they have overcome in their careers, they are the role models that women can aspire to. Consulting firms such as Thatcher Consulting can also provide advice to real estate firms in how to recruit a more balanced workforce, from resourcing strategies and processes to fulfilling diversity and inclusion targets.

With a robust recruitment strategy in place to increase the pool of female talent coming through the ranks, real estate firms can move closer toward attaining a gender-balanced candidate pool. Recruiting top female talent is a key part of every business that should receive great time and attention.

“Women are the largest untapped reservoir of talent in the world.” – Hilary Clinton

 

Lucy Winberg is a Director of Winberg Associates Property Recruitment and a Committee Member of RE:Women.  The next RE:Women event is on 21st October at 6pm at Aitchison Raffety. Tickets can be booked here.

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