The pledges from top UK commercial real estate agencies to close gender pay gaps in the commercial property sector are promising, but they highlight that an industry-wide cultural shift is integral to real change to gender representation in our stubbornly male-dominated industry (p7, 08.04.22).

Source: Shutterstock/Hyejin Kang

The latest figures suggest women still only make up 15% of the property and construction sector’s workforce.

As well as poor female representation across all levels, human resources data shows women are still more likely to feature in part-time support roles, whereas full-time, managerial positions often remain the domain of men.

The lack of women in senior positions is helping to foster a more profound gender pay gap.

Indeed, Property Week’s analysis of the latest gender pay gap reports revealed an average hourly gender pay gap of 31.88% – and this is particularly down to imbalances in upper pay quartiles.

Another reason for the unequal gender balance is the fact the property and construction services have tended to lag behind other industries in adopting flexible working practices.

However, the flexible and serviced office sectors have proved to be interesting outliers. Due to the growth of proptech and entrepreneurialism among women, they tend to have more balanced gender ratios and are helping to address gender diversity issues in the property sector as a whole. For example, OSiT’s workforce is 90% female and has roughly twice as many women as men at board level.

The need for more flexible working practices, which has been exacerbated by the pandemic, has seen many women opting for a more entrepreneurial path, rather than the traditional corporate route.

Consequently, there is an emerging group of highly successful female entrepreneurs who are having a significant impact on the property market.

Ultimately, the issue should not be about whether a candidate is male or female, but the quality and service they can contribute.

If this is embraced at a cultural level, the property sector will be able to leverage more diverse and better talent.

Niki Fuchs, managing director, Office Space in Town