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Real Estate

Nurturing diverse talent remains key to boosting female RE leaders

Q&A with Liz Peace, Real Estate Balance Chair

May 11, 2021

 How do you see the females' participation in the real estate market currently?

It’s definitely improved since I joined the industry back in 2002 when I could easily walk into a crowded room at a property event and see only a mass of men in grey suits! Today (or at least pre-pandemic) I am impressed by the number of young women that I see at events – and also the far better ethnic diversity amongst the younger folk in the industry, both men and women. So what that tells me is that the recruitment into the industry is becoming far more diverse – certainly as far as gender is concerned. 

Do the women occupy a considerable portion of leadership positions? Why or why not, in your opinion?

What we have now got to get a lot better at doing is nurturing and retaining diverse talent because only if we do that will we start to see more women and ethnic minorities at senior levels in our industry. There are now definitely more women in positions of leadership than 20 years ago but I have some sympathy with those who point out that this is not a problem you can solve overnight since if the women are not there to be promoted into leadership positions you cannot simply magic them out of thin air. So the key is to ensure there is a diverse and balanced pipeline of people coming through the industry – from the junior levels into middle management from which the promotions to the ‘Leadership Team’ can be made. If the balance at middle management is 50:50, then I am pretty sure that the Leadership Team will end up with 50% (or more) women! And the same principle applies to ethnicity. 

What must be done to improve this situation?

This is exactly why Real Estate Balance was formed 6 years ago, by a group of senior 
women, who were determined to ensure that the women joining the industry were encouraged to stay on into middle and senior management. We have done this by focussing on the nature and culture of the companies in the real estate industry and getting them to look from the CEO downwards at how their organisations work and what needs to be done differently to create places in which women want to stay – and get to the top.  

In which stage do we are in this timeline evolution?

Our work is definitely not finished yet – indeed I would say we are probably not even half way through. We have a fantastic cadre of hugely supportive CEOs from all the major property companies - and a lot of the smaller ones as well - who have signed up to our CEO Commitments aimed at making sure their companies encourage and support a genuinely diverse workforce. But there still needs to be more improvement in corporate culture and to achieve that we believe you need better data collection to see what is working and what isn’t and also some sort of benchmark against which companies can measure themselves in order to see exactly where they need to make changes. That is what we are working on at the moment.

In addition there is the whole issues of ethnic diversity - which didn’t start out as one of our objectives but which we feel we cannot ignore given the strength of feeling demonstrated by the Black Lives Matter movement. So we are also trying to work with a number of other organisations to raise the profile of wider D&I needs, as well as those of the women in our industry. After all an organisation that is truly diverse should be looking at the needs of all its people whatever their ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, disability or social background.   

Tell us an action that you took looking to support the rise of women in leadership.

I have mentioned quite a few of the things we have been doing, but I think probably the most significant action of Real Estate Balance so far has been the way in which we have been able to harness the commitment of so many people at the top of their organisations – mostly men – to making the sort of changes that will ensure a better flow of talented women from junior through middle management to senior levels. There are a lot of organisations which focus on helping women to navigate the corporate, and mostly male, maze; we have tackled the problem from the top downwards in getting the most senior people to agree that they need to make the culture of their organisations conducive to a genuinely diverse workforce.  

Join Liz Peace at the
GRI Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Online Conference this 25-26 May. Be part of responsible action for the real estate industry and benchmark with industry peers, in a closed door environment.

Written by:

Liz Peace
Liz Peace
Founder & Advisory Committee Member
Real Estate Balance
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