The property industry is working hard to shake off perceptions about it being synonymous with white men in blue suits. Discussing the gender, ethnicity and class divides, our property podcast brings together UK chair of the Urban Land Institute Vanessa Hale, Arcadis consultant Ayrton Dhillon and Greystar director Adina David to examine the sector’s current efforts.

The property industry is changing for the better, a panel of experts told Property Week, but more still needs to be done to encourage opportunity and diversity throughout the industry.

Women currently make up only 22% of board members and only 30% of senior leadership positions in property, according to PwC’s Real Estate Balance survey this year.

Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) representation is lagging even further behind. A report by the RICS found that only 1.2% of the property industry identified as BAME.

“I’ve been in the UK for eight years and when I first started, I would go into an event or go into a room and be surrounded by, to be honest, quite a few white guys. Without question that is changing, and I think the fact that the conversations are happening is automatically raising people’s awareness,” says Vanessa Hale, chair of the Urban Land Institute.

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“Diversity is not just about gender, it is about ethnicity, it is about age, it’s class, it’s also thinking about elements of mental or physical disabilities. It is the full range of elements that make up diversity – it isn’t just a one-trick pony,” she adds.

One challenge that needs to be overcome to boost diversity is changing the industry’s recruitment process to make the industry appealing to all.

“It’s looking at how we change the hiring process,” says Hale. “We’re continuing to see a growth in apprenticeships, and the government’s move to create the apprenticeship levy was a good starting point.”

Ayrton Dhillon, consultant at natural and built asset design and consultancy firm Arcadis, agrees. “Apprenticeships and universities could do more with the property industry backing them in terms of funding for people from less privileged backgrounds and investing in human capital,” he says.

Adina David, Greystar

Vanessa Hale, ULI UK

Ayrton Dhillon, Arcadis

Recently though the industry has seen a number of platforms and networking groups set up to develop support networks for different minorities.

For example, the ULI UrbanPlan’s free sixth-form education programme is led by industry experts to educate young people about the opportunities within the sector.

Additionally, Greystar director of flexible housing Adina David set up her group Ladies in Real Estate to provide informal networking opportunities for women.

“We’re trying to bring everyone together into the conversation. This isn’t us versus them, this is everyone, this is our industry, and how we can make it better for everyone as we continue to grow and evolve,” says David.

You can listen to this podcast via iTunes or Spotify or SoundCloud. This podcast was produced by Blackstock Consulting [] founder Andrew Teacher and you can Tweet your views @andrewjteacher and @RESIevent