The shortage of talented senior women in property is much commented on, but do the reasons stand up to scrutiny? Two months into the role of managing director of Real Estate Balance, I keep hearing three messages about talent and gender.

Kaela Fenn-Smith

Firstly, there aren’t enough women in middle and senior management positions with relevant property skills. Secondly, businesses clearly want to hire the most qualified person for the job and thirdly, women are adamant they want to be hired as the most qualified person for the job and not just because they’re women.

While there is logic to this line of thinking, I ask that we look at the issue from a fresh perspective. Diversity of thought contributes to a greater sum of the parts for businesses, so we need to break the cycle, or we’ll be talking about the gender imbalance in property for another generation.


Mix it up: property firms need to be diverse to best serve their clients


I can confidently say I am where I am today because key people at different stages of my career – at CBRE, then JLL, and finally Landsec – decided to take a chance on me. I can admit that when I was hired into each of those businesses, I was not the most qualified for the job – far from it, in fact. But I did have potential and I suspect others saw in me a skill set beyond the scope of the job technicalities – determination, relationship building skills, customer service focus, a hunger to learn, curiosity, and a tenacious drive to perform.

My message to fellow women is: please consider taking opportunities to step up, even if you don’t feel fully qualified. You might not meet every single criterion – who does? – but don’t forget that what you offer a business in combination with your skills is your contribution to the greater sum of the parts.

”We need to break the cycle, or we will be talking about gender imbalance in property for another generation”

And to men: if you’re in the position to recruit or promote, try to see past gender and look for potential. Differentiate yourself as someone who recognises what women can bring to your organisation. Businesses need leaders who want to create and lead diverse teams.

Every deal I have completed has been a collaborative team effort, involving individuals with different skills and experiences. Research shows that diverse teams make better decisions. I know from my own experience that this is true.

If you are in a role where you can recruit, nurture or promote talent, I encourage you to look beyond the obvious. I promise you’ll reap the rewards.

Kaela Fenn-Smith is managing director of Real Estate Balance