According to Women in Property, only 15% of the property and construction industry currently comprises of women.
It is difficult to deny that within this, there has been a general rise in the number of female landlords, with two in every five landlords now being female. However, the rest of the industry is still playing catch up. Roles in property and housing management, as well as engineering and construction are still vastly underpopulated by female workers. Senior positions within property companies are also filled, in the majority, by men. Why? It has been speculated that unconscious bias is to be blamed for this lack within the workforce; whereby certain social stereotypes are formed about various groups of people outside of their conscious awareness. Unconscious bias is when we identify words like, strong, confident and driven as exclusive to men in the workplace, and soft, caring, and emotional with women. Hewlett Packard have further suggested that men are likely to apply for a job if they fit 60% of the job criteria, whereas women are only likely to apply if they fit 100% of the criteria. If women do not emanate the same self-confidence and drive as expected from men, they are likely to be less effective in pushing themselves forward in their careers, especially if they do not even apply for a role in the first place.
Recently, the government, institutes for higher education, and employers have been trying to shift this balance. By reshaping the associations made through unconscious bias for women and for men, and by giving women the confidence to apply for positions in the first place (through encouraging changes in personal operation – i.e. actively seeking opportunities and proving abilities), the hope is that the property and construction industry will become a more gender neutral environment. For this to happen, women must begin to demonstrate confidence in their abilities, and employers must seek an equal gender workforce if we are to begin to shake the realities of unconscious bias and move forward.
At Seven Property Group, our mainly female-led team is paving the way, always favouring ability over sex. Five out of eight of our team are females, and, within this, two out of three executive roles are filled by women. Our director and manager are both female and oversee all aspects of the business’s activity – from maintenance and refurbishments, to marketing and administration. Having a wide portfolio of properties can make this a difficult task, but it is a task that also requires a diverse range of attributes including confidence, strength, tenacity, care, and understanding. This is a team that idealises parity, which can drive the business towards success while also being sensitive and understanding towards clients.
A recent survey conducted by the National Landlord’s Association revealed that Kirsty Allsop came second when property renters were asked who their ideal celebrity landlord would be, due to her maternal and understanding nature, but also because of her unrelenting drive to get things done. Kirsty was beaten only by Philip Schofield who was voted number one because of his kind and caring outlook. What this example demonstrates, is that individuals who amalgamate qualities from either end of the spectrum are those who are most desirable within the property workforce.
Females are needed in the workforce to bring about this state of equilibrium. Having a range of emotional and practical attributes are what make the most desirable employees (or bosses), as they will be the best-equipped to conquer the challenges of the property industry. It is with this in mind, that companies such as Seven Property Group, who continue to employ women within a highly male-dominated landscape, are most likely to be the most efficient, confident and emotionally aware businesses.
By Molly Lennard-Jones