Sue Brown, managing director at Real Estate Balance, reflects on how far gender equality has come since the organisation was established and how far it still has to go.

Sue Brown

Sue Brown, Real Estate Balance

International Women’s Day – and the lead-up to it – represents an important opportunity to focus minds around the issue of gender equality/inequality.

And we need it – because although much progress has been made in this area since I first started out in real estate some 40 years ago, it’s clear to me that the battle for gender equality certainly isn’t over yet.

Gender pay gap data shows that real estate – while it isn’t the worst offender – still had a significant male/female pay disparity of 9% in 2023.

Results from Real Estate Balance’s most recent industry-wide survey – the largest and most comprehensive study of equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) in the sector – also show that the gender gap between middle managers and senior leaders has not only persisted but worsened since our very first survey in 2016.

So while International Women’s Day is a welcome moment to coalesce around these issues and bring them to the foreground, it’s really just a manifestation of something we should be prioritising all year long: ensuring that no one is prevented from accessing opportunities or fulfilling their potential because of their gender.

Addressing this challenge has been the driving force behind Real Estate Balance’s work ever since we were established in 2015, when seven senior women leaders grew tired of the gender imbalance in our industry and decided to get together and do something about it.

Today, we are a leading campaigning organisation working to improve EDI across UK real estate, and while our work has now evolved to embrace broader EDI objectives such as ethnicity and social mobility, addressing the gender imbalance still remains a core part of what we do.

Over the last few months, we’ve been pushing out into different UK regions – running events in cities like Bristol, Birmingham and Manchester, with one coming up in Edinburgh this April to look forward to.

As we’ve spoken to property professionals in these areas, I’ve been struck by the incredibly diverse and impressive pool of talent that exists right across the UK, and excited by the appetite for gender equality that’s present in organisations of all shapes and sizes. Gender is clearly a nationwide issue that the industry is taking seriously.

As many of you prepare to head off to Mipim, you may be surprised to learn that back in 1990 when it was first established, no one talked about diversity and inclusion.

I’m delighted to say that a very different picture exists today. Real Estate Balance is proud to be hosting a full programme of events there this year, including a presentation of the results from our 2023 NextGen survey of UK property professionals aged under 35. Recognising the importance of these issues, three of the UK’s largest property companies – JLL, Knight Frank and Savills – are coming together in the spirit of collaboration rather than competition to get behind the event and contribute to this important conversation. The event takes place from 2pm on Wednesday 13 March at the Palais des Festivals’ London stand, so if you’d like to join us you can request your free place here.

This May, back in the UK, the team behind UKREiiF is also thoroughly embracing EDI, putting it centre stage with a best-ever diversity programme.

As an official EDI partner, we’re looking forward to discussing key challenges and solutions at the event, while promoting the case for diverse and inclusive workplaces and cultures in our industry.

If that wasn’t enough, there’ll be more of our famous speed and reverse mentoring events to look forward to this year – keep an eye on our events page for all the details.

Our website also remains chock-full of helpful guidance and resources that real estate organisations can use to address EDI issues such as gender representation: our guide to EDI data collection, launched in collaboration with PwC, is a great place to start.

I hope I’ve given you a flavour of some of the exciting and important work Real Estate Balance will be doing in 2024. For us, gender equality is not a one-day-a-year initiative, but a long-term campaign that’s fundamental to the health and prosperity of our industry.

I encourage you to check out our website and follow along with us on X and LinkedIn – because one thing’s for sure: if you’re looking for practical support and resources to address our industry’s most pressing EDI challenges, we’ll still be going strong even after International Women’s Day is done and dusted for another year.

Sue Brown is managing director at Real Estate Balance