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Women in property: why aren’t there more?

Charlotte Bland, Caxtons, Chartered Surveyors, asks why more women aren’t at the fore in property.

Charlotte Bland

women-property-woman-holding-model-houseAfter graduating from London South Bank University, with an MSc in Real Estate Appraisal, I joined Caxtons in 2011 as part of the investment consultancy team, acquiring property assets for clients and dealing with commercial property management.

I soon discovered that Caxtons is proud to support women in the property industry and has a significant proportion of valuable female team members and a well-balanced workforce.

The company recognises that this stimulates greater effort across the company and a better mix of leadership skills, through providing access to a wider pool of talent, highlighting why greater gender diversity is correlated with stronger corporate performance.

My colleague, Emma Catterall, is a commercial property manager and, with Caxtons’ support, is working towards full Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors accreditation. Emma says, “In my experience, Caxtons encourages employees to develop by providing the
appropriate professional training. This benefits both employees and the company and guarantees the knowledge and skills base to provide a great service for clients.”

Unfortunately, Caxtons is not typical of the sector in celebrating women within the industry. It was therefore heartening to hear RICS announce their new presidential team and that in
a landmark election, has appointed Louise Brooke-Smith as the first female in the organisation’s 145-year history.

The RICS Leadership Team is elected by the Governing Council and provides leadership and oversight to priority issues, playing a key role in supporting the institution to meet the vision to be “recognised in key worldwide markets as the leading body that sets and enforces professional standards and offers access to the most sought after professional status”.

The Leadership Team is made up of the most senior ambassadors of the profession, championing its importance to members, the market and public stakeholders.

Louise took office as President Elect on 1 July 2013, assuming the position alongside her role as Managing Director of her planning practice in Birmingham, established 20 years ago.

She has also worked for the UN and other NGOs on development, construction and land use projects, has been a visiting lecturer and Fellow at Birmingham City University and Sheffield Hallam University, and regularly speaks at conferences across the UK and Europe.

ENCOURAGEMENT AND ACTION

The milestone election is extremely encouraging to women in the industry; the Association of Women in Property reports that only 15 per cent of the workforce are female. A report in 2008 by RICS, Bridging the Gender Gap, states that while the number of female students is on the increase, the institution recognises that they have along way to go to match other sectors, such as medicine, where male/female ratios are near 50:50. They believe that part of the problem seems to be connected with the image of property and construction that is presented to us at an early age; another factor is women leaving the profession mid-career to have families and, returning to work finding significant barriers, which need to be addressed.

Cathy Stewart highlighted, in the RICS Construction Journal ‘Where are the Women?’ the lack of progress over the last 20 years. In 1987 14.13 per cent of the construction workforce were female; by 2007 this figure had risen to just 14.25 per cent. She called for more action, beginning in schools by making girls aware of the opportunities.

Researchers claim that organisations with women on their boards consistently outperform all male boards. Credit Suisse Research Institute measured the share price performance of 2,360 companies globally over the past six years and demonstrated that companies with at least one woman on their board produced a 16 per cent return on equity, four per cent higher than firms with no female board members. Whilst companies with all male boards grew on average by 10 per cent in those six years; those with gender diverse boards grew by 14 per cent.

THE FUTURE
Michael Newey

Michael Newey

Michael Newey, President of RICS says, “I am delighted to lead the most gender inclusive Presidential team in the 145-year history of RICS. Louise Brooke-Smith follow me as President next summer and Amanda Clack, a PWC partner, was elected as Vice President.

“The land, property and built environment profession needs to be as inclusive as possible. We need to make sure that there are no artificial barriers, based on prejudice and stereotypes, to entry, but also longevity in careers. This is about encouraging women to choose a career in property, and empowering those who do so to continue their careers should they wish to work flexibly, for example to care for children or dependent relatives. Where women opt to take a career break it is essential that they can re-enter the workplace at the appropriate level.

“I am looking forward to meeting RICS members across the world who are contributing to successful economies and societies because of their talents and abilities, irrespective of their background, gender, ethnicity or sexuality. I am really pleased to see that Caxtons are encouraging women to enter the profession and to get fully qualified. This is a very sensible investment for the profession’s future. It is also the right thing to do.”

Charlotte Hand

Charlotte Hand

Charlotte Bland is a commercial and investment surveyor at Caxtons, Chartered Surveyors.

January 20, 2014

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