This week the world has been highlighting how LGBT+ people face discrimination despite the huge strides made towards wider public understanding and acceptance of the issues they face, particularly in the UK.
Considering this, The Negotiator talked to Misa von Tunzelman of BNP Parisbas Real Estate. Her job includes heading up Strutt & Parker’s marketing and communications. She is also bi-sexual and a Board Member of Freehold, a network for LGBT+ property professionals.
Q: Does LGBT+ really matter within the property industry?
“I used to get that question a lot, but I am asked that far less now.
“But yes, it matters because diversity across the board matters. “For businesses to be successful whatever industry they are in you need a range of inputs and ideas to create innovation and speak to customers of all different types and, also, to appeal to young people who you are trying to attract into your business.
“There is also plenty of research to show that staff who are in the closet and stress about being outed every day are much less productive.
“And having myself been in the closet for about ten years at work at a previous employer, it’s exhausting.
“It’s just a waste of energy having to constantly worry about being ‘found out’.”
Q: What’s it like at Strutt & Parker?
“It’s absolutely fine. I was interviewed by our former CEO Andy Martin and I was clear about my LGBT+ activities.
“And in 2017 he attended an event about LGBT+ within the industry and was part of a round-table discussion and wanted to find out more about people’s experiences.
“Also, I felt more comfortable here because people would wear rainbow lanyards, for example.
“The big surprise for me was when the Canterbury office lobbied me to fund sponsorship of Canterbury Pride – which given its rural location was remarkable.
“I think attitudes to LGBT in the UK have shifted quite a long way in the past ten years.
“Just because someone is in tweed doesn’t mean they are not accepting of LGBT people.”
Q: Have you faced discrimination?
“No, I haven’t. But I have experienced casual homophobia within the property industry. I guess that’s because at the time I wasn’t out so people felt it was OK to make jokes or comment in a way that made me feel it wouldn’t be safe to be out – but when I did come out it was fine.”
Q: What form can discrimination take?
“It can be pay or promotional restrictions although I’ve never witnessed it directly. More often it’s subtle things like not being put forward to meet a particular client or work on a certain project.”
Q: Is the estate agency world moving forward on LGBT+ issues?
“I think it is moving forward but at different speeds depending on location, size of organisation and sector.”
Q: What would say to an agent wanting to move forward?
“It’s about creating an inclusive environment – you have to talk about LGBT+ in a normal way whether it’s a local Pride festival or a relative or whatever. Just make it a part of the conversation so it become known that your branch or office is a safe place to be.”