I received a complaint via email last week. There is nothing particularly unusual in that.
Property Week is in the business of reporting the news and sometimes people don’t want their news reported. But this wasn’t that sort of complaint.
This was an email from a reader who was “disappointed” that she hadn’t seen a female face in “several pages” in the magazine last week. She was so “bothered” that she counted them and could “barely see more than five” in the mag.
I replied that we had made a commitment to featuring at least one female columnist a week (there are often more), highlighted the number of women who had featured as winners in our Property and RESI Awards coverage and promised to redouble our efforts to ensure the magazine is “diverse in every way”.
I went away feeling like a responsible human being who had done the right thing. But the more I thought about it over the next few days, the more it was me who felt bothered. Why was this person holding Property Week to account for the lack of diversity in the property industry? Why was she saying she “didn’t wish to call this out on social media”? Call out what?
Let me just clarify something. Property Week is not part of the property industry – we are part of the publishing industry – and we don’t have anywhere near as serious a diversity problem as the property industry. The Property Week editorial team is 50/50 men and women, we’re skewed towards state school educated and we hail from a range of backgrounds – I’m half Trinidadian, we have a half Kenyan, an Italian, a Canadian, someone from the West Country and two Yorkshiremen. There are a few southerners, too.
Anyone who applies for a job with us can be sure they will be judged purely on merit, not on where they come from, how posh their school or university was, whether they are from the LGBT+ community or whether they are male or female.
They can also be sure they won’t encounter a gender pay gap anywhere near the size seen at many property companies, including the company the lady who contacted me works for. I checked out the median gender pay gap at her company and it had increased in the past year – to more than six times the size of the gap at the company I work for.
That is pretty shocking, which is why as the industry’s “critical friend”, Property Week will continue to call out the gender pay gap. We will also call out unacceptable and outdated behaviour like that exposed by the Presidents Club scandal. We will continue to call for greater diversity, as we have been doing since we launched our Open Plan campaign in 2014 and subsequent Diversity Charter. We will ensure our events are as diverse as possible in terms of speakers. And we will endeavour to make our editorial content as diverse as possible.
But I will not and cannot manufacture diversity. I certainly won’t be upping the number of female faces in the mag for the sake of it. That is not the answer. Neither is fixating on the number of women in the industry. The diversity challenge is far broader than that and while Property Week is responsible for shining a spotlight on the problem, we are not responsible for solving it. That responsibility lies with you and only you.