Lerato Marema, senior planner at Deloitte, talks about how she got started in property, the challenges she has overcome and her advice for young people. She also shares some cultural recommendations.

Lerato Marema

Lerato Marema

What do you value in people?

Integrity, passion and authenticity.

What does your job entail?

Influencing the future of the spaces we work, live and play in by helping clients obtain planning consent to deliver developments and contribute to the creation of vibrant neighbourhoods.

How did you join the property industry?

Following my town and country planning degree at the University of Liverpool, I started off as a planning adviser in the Environment Agency. I then moved to working in professional services, giving me a much broader perspective on the development lifecycle.

What do you like most about the property industry?

The ability to see the physical manifestation of ideas, designs and hours of project work come to life.

And what do you dislike most about it?

The lack of diversity, particularly for black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) professionals in the industry. I think there is a correlation between the lack of representation at all levels and the challenges that predominantly BAME communities face.

What barriers or challenges have you overcome?

One thing I am consciously seeking to do is be myself. Showing up as I am, the way I look, the way I talk – I am proud of my South African accent. I’ve made good progress on this but sadly, as a black woman, I have faced a variety of micro-aggressions.

What are you most proud of in your career?

Being part of the Deloitte Real Estate team and working to bring forward the regeneration of NOMA – a 20-acre site in the north of Manchester city centre, which will see the restoration of multiple listed buildings and the creation of an important commercial-led neighbourhood. Its completion will signify a tremendous amount of investment, collaboration and commitment to transform the area.

What advice would you give someone starting a career in the property industry?

Be proactive, network and make sure you are up-to-date with the latest industry trends. Ask lots of questions and give your opinion! Fresh perspective is always needed. I have benefited from reverse mentoring with senior leadership – and I believe they benefited too!

What do you want to change about the property industry?

Broadening access for young BAME professionals to all areas of the industry, from consultancy through to funding. Diversity and inclusion are far more than tick-box exercises as it just makes good business sense to have a truly diverse workforce.

I am proud that Deloitte responded to the Black Lives Matter movement with the black action plan – five key commitments aligned to the firm’s global shared values of fostering inclusion and taking care of each other.

In the wake of Covid-19 and profound racial injustices this year, I think we each need to think about what we can individually do to make a difference, however big or small.