Compelling evidence shows companies with gender-balanced leadership teams are more financially successful.

Philip Dunne

The business case is clear: to continue to grow, we must strengthen our talent pool by promoting diversity. Gender-balanced teams are better at developing solutions to business challenges. Yet statistics reveal in many sectors, business is not doing enough to reap the rewards.

Grant Thornton’s recent International Business Report 2015, Women in Business: the Path to Leadership, notes that the proportion of senior management roles held by women in real estate is just 18%, compared with 25% of the senior roles available in the financial services sector. It is clear that plenty of opportunity exists for a more balanced representation.

It’s vital for senior leadership to examine how we recruit and promote women. We can have conversations on topics such as gender diversity and unconscious bias and offer training to help build awareness. According to Alexandra Roddy, Prologis’s global head of marketing and vice chair of the board of Professional Businesswomen of California, what we’re seeing is unequal access to opportunity. Because the people at the top have the power to make decisions, they’re the ones who direct the culture of hiring and career development. If we’re aware of how biases, conscious and unconscious, factor into hiring practices, we can make strides toward a better - and more balanced - process.

In 2014 our company’s 13 most senior women launched Breakthrough, a global network that supports the retention and advancement of women, and this now has chapters across 15 countries. It supports career growth and personal development by hosting presentations and panel discussions attended by senior leadership. Areas of focus include work-life balance, networking, personal career planning and development, leadership and negotiation skills. The network is inclusive, and offers tools, training and resources to women and men. It also promotes a culture of mentorship.

The network is especially active in Europe, with team members meeting regularly. Martina Malone, senior vice-president, client relations, and Ellen Hall, former Prologis senior vice-president, fund management, have played a key role in prompting this conversation and raising awareness across our European offices. The response from our colleagues across the globe has been resoundingly positive.

It is equally important we provide the means for women to thrive in their careers. Greater flexibility, for example, does not just help parents and caregivers; everyone benefits from a culture that encourages a healthy balance between work and personal life. Promoting work-life balance boosts employee engagement and satisfaction.

Also, we are highlighting female role models internally among senior leadership and as success stories in the industry. By sharing their experiences, we hope these role models will motivate more women to pursue leadership roles.

Building a gender-balanced team does not happen by accident. We encourage women to stand up, speak out and make their career plans known. This could entail the creation of career advancement plans, focused goal-setting, staying in close contact with supervisors and searching out mentoring opportunities. Both men and women must make an effort to challenge their own biases and find ways to accommodate differences. As the Grant Thornton report points out: “Business growth comes from diversity of opinion; from thinking and acting differently from the competition.”

Prologis is committed to promoting a more gender-balanced workforce and leadership. I’m confident that our efforts, and Property Week’s Open Plan diversity campaign, will encourage more real estate companies to follow suit.

Philip Dunne is president of Prologis Europe