I wholeheartedly agree with your article ‘Property needs female talent’, with the caveat that in the ‘newer’ areas of real estate, such as proptech, there is the potential for change from the beginning.
As with many of the industries that dominate the City and beyond, corporate real estate grew out of an ‘old boys’ club’ mentality – particularly real estate with its deep cultural roots in wealthy rural landowners and the historic estates of London.
The general ethos of the industry has changed little over the centuries – stereotypically male activities such as sports matches, pints in the pub and clubs are where deals are made and remain intimidating and near inaccessible to most women.
Even though I, like many of my male counterparts, am white and middle class (diversity across race and class is a whole other topic for another day), breaking into the real estate industry as a 23-year-old woman was overwhelming.
While there are positive signs of greater female participation in all areas of the industry, most C-suite and board-level members remain white, middle-class males and little is changing in this respect. As an industry entrenched in tradition, my observation is that this is changing at a glacial pace.
As a recent addition to the industry, proptech has a fantastic opportunity to change this. Although its principal role as a disruptor to the industry is via the technology it provides, there is nothing to say it can’t also disrupt the industry in terms of who it employs, promotes and chooses as its leaders.
Despite this, there is still a trend for proptech workers to be white and male – the tech sector in general also has the same issues as property with regards to this, albeit at perhaps a lesser extent.
Without the barriers to entry that corporate real estate has – nepotism, a public school education, being white, male and British – proptech has the chance to lead the industry in promoting diversity. But the time to do that is now – let’s not wait until the same faces that dominate corporate real estate end up dominating proptech, too.
Millie Lewis, head of customer success, Coyote Software