Put the words ‘technology’ and ‘property’ side by side and the automatic association is with disruption and modernisation. But is the forward-thinking sector really that modern?
Technological know-how, state-of-the-art platforms, virtual reality and AI may well be revolutionising the way we interact with buildings and the wider built environment, but what is technology without its diverse range of people? And how can proptech evolve as a sector if there isn’t a diverse community fuelling it?
The Women in PropTech Insight Report uncovered a stark gender imbalance in the sector: only 9% of proptech founders are women. So why such a disparity for a sector that is still in its infancy?
Let’s start with the education system. It’s no secret that for years, women have been underrepresented in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) university courses and occupations. The latest figures suggest that just over one third (35%) of STEM students in higher education in the UK are women.
While the percentage of female graduates with core STEM degrees is steadily growing, there is clearly a considerable amount of work to be done to encourage women to both study these subjects and graduate into the workforce.
But the real question is: how do we encourage young women to take up STEM subjects? The solution is simple: there needs to be a radical overhaul of the way in which STEM-related sectors are represented.
Those stereotypical images of nutty professors hiding in labs need to be replaced with inspirational role models trailblazing the way in their specialities and making a difference, especially at school.
Ultimately, stereotyping job roles for men and women will do us no favours. Also, how many kids are exposed to the concepts of fintech and proptech at school? We might be evolving as sectors, but our education system needs to keep up as well.
And what about the tech and start-up culture? A 2019 British Business Bank report revealed that female founders got 157 times less funding than men and that start-ups with even one woman on the founding team were less likely to get funding than those run by men. This cultural barrier is serious and needs to be addressed quickly if we are to rear a new generation of entrepreneurs who feel they are part of a collaborative and inclusive sector – something proptech should strive to be.
Ultimately, stereotyping job roles for men and women will do us no favours
The real estate industry has also been male dominated for too long. While there has been a concerted effort to change the way the sector is led and perceived over the past decade, there is a long march ahead with a dearth of women carrying the banners.
Proptech has the ability to transform real estate and to be the leader in gender diversity, equality and inclusivity. While digitisation brings economic value, let’s empower those around us and our future generations to unleash the sector’s true creative, social and technological potential.
Toni Delli-Compagni is chief operating officer at Locale