Yesterday, I sat reading Ellie Rees’ piece in The Negotiator entitled “Estate Agencies Must Face Up To The Gender Gap” and as a woman working within the industry it immediately caught my eye.
A lot of what Ellie said I had to agree with. The industry has always been largely male dominated and unsurprisingly, fully pumped with testosterone, due to the nature of the competitive sales environment.
“We need female decision makers whose influence has meaningful impact,” Ellie said, and I whole heartedly agree.
However, the examples that Ellie uses with regards to basic pay gaps, bonuses and women holding senior positions, were figures taken largely from the big corporate agencies and whilst it’s sad to see, I’m not entirely surprised.
It’s easy for anyone, man or woman, to get overlooked when you’re a small cog in a big wheel.
Where I work, it couldn’t be any different.
I work for Benjamin Stevens Estate Agency as their Marketing Director. It is an independently run agency covering North London, Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire and all surrounding areas.
Our MD, Steve Wayne started the agency 17 years ago from scratch aged just 22. He has grown and developed the business which now operates with large and successful Sales (Residential and Commercial), Lettings and Property Management departments spread over three branches, and a well-established Block Management practice, and 80 members of staff.
We are so very proud of our history for recruiting, supporting and promoting incredible women into junior, middle management and senior positions across all areas of the company.
Half of the Senior Management team (one of which is me!) are women.
Out of eight managerial positions within the agency, five of these are also held by women.
At Benjamin Stevens, salaries are set based on experience, not gender or age. This means, in some cases, the female members of the team earn more than their male counterparts in the same position.
Right hand woman
My colleague, and the company’s Associate Director, Louisa Felman, began working with Steve at Benjamin Stevens in 2011, as an office junior in the company, whilst completing her degree. She worked her way up to become Steve’s second in command and ‘right hand woman’!
Louisa says “I have been able to continue working alongside having my two children and love that I can work flexibly whilst also having time at home. When we hire people, we hire the best person for that role regardless of gender”.
Since the pandemic, ‘flexible working’ and ‘working from home’ appear to be becoming the new policy for a lot of agencies, but at Benjamin Stevens it’s been a fully integrated option for many years. This is largely due to the number of women we have on our team. Many of them are mothers who fit their work around school aged children. Some have even been with the company long enough to have been part of the team before becoming a parent.
Steve has always strived to allow women to continue, and most importantly, to further their careers at the company whilst comfortably being able to balance work and parenthood.
During my job interview with Steve, I walked away knowing that he would allow me flexibility on when and where I worked, yet I would still be viewed an integral part of the team. We have numerous female sales and settings negotiators, property managers, block managers and administrators who feel the same way.
Ellie quite rightly said that women should be sharing their stories and experiences within estate agencies, so I thought I’d share mine. I’m proud to say mine is a positive story and I sincerely hope there are more examples like this out there in the industry.