In five or ten years’ time the status of women in the real estate sector will no longer be an issue if companies take responsibility and become more proactive, panellists agreed at the PropertyEU ‘Walk the Talk – making gender equality a reality’ briefing held at EXPO REAL in October.
At present only 14% of the over 150,000 RICS qualified professionals globally are women, said Judith Gabler, director of operations Europe, regional manager, RICS: ‘This percentage must increase, otherwise there is a huge risk of losing female talent and skills. Gender diversity is crucial to ensure the market is equipped with the best talent.’
Real estate is a notoriously conservative and slow-moving sector, she said, but there are encouraging signs of change.
‘Companies are recognising that in the war for talent it is crazy and self-defeating to exclude female talent,’ said Andreas Muschter, CEO, Commerz Real. ‘They realise they have to create conditions that allow women to get to the top jobs, they have mentoring programmes and networking opportunities, there is more awareness of the issue and more willingness to tackle it. We are on the right track, but we have to keep going.’
Three things must happen simultaneously to see a real difference, said Cornelia Eisenbacher, chair of the Board, Frauen in der Immobilienwirtschaft: ‘First, men in leadership positions in the industry must promote more women; second, women must be mentors to more junior women in the workplace; third, there must be a re-thinking at management level to give more support to women.’
One possible option is rethink recruitment procedures to ‘make them blind, so there is no way of knowing if the candidate for the job is male or female,’ she said. ‘Once in the workplace, women are now doing more to climb the career ladder, they are not afraid to be ambitious and hard-working and they are getting better at being proactive and demanding responsibility and power when they deserve it.’
So far the onus has been on women to speak up, ask for a promotion or push ahead, but now the context must change to make that easier, said Anne Bailly, owner, Bailly Real Estate. ‘Not every woman is assertive and outgoing, so it must not be left entirely to the individual,’ she said. ‘At present the system fosters inequality. To speed up the process, we must develop a culture and a system that empowers women, generates real equality of opportunity and rewards talent, both male and female.’
Change is being pushed by younger generations that have clear expectations and a very different attitude to work, said Tina Paillet, chair of the RICS Europe Board. ‘Millennials are driving businesses to change by putting the emphasis on freedom and leisure and quality of life and by demanding flexibility,’ she said. ‘So far it has been women putting in requests for part-time work or flexible time, but now men want that too and that is a very important change that could lead to faster progress.’
Among millennials gender stereotypes are falling away, she said: ‘They are all looking for the same thing and women will benefit. I am hoping that is the solution.’
Individuals, companies and politicians who make the rules ‘now recognise that it is important for both men and women to work, that they must have the freedom to choose who stays at home and looks after the children,’ said Muschter.
If companies take responsibility and individuals, both men and women, become more assertive then ‘in ten or hopefully five years’ time we will not be having this conversation because it will no longer be necessary, said Eisenbacher. ‘Gender equality will be the norm.’
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