To mark International Women’s Day 2021, Property Week is publishing comment pieces from female voices from across the industry every day this week. Today, Anna Masello from The One Atelier writes about the need for more senior women in real estate.

Anna Masello

Anna Masello

In a pre-Covid world, thousands of property professionals would be preparing for MIPIM in Cannes this month. A beautiful Côte d’Azur location, busy days spent networking with industry leaders and the historic city filled with suits… men in suits. Nothing illustrates the gender gap in property quite like a global conference with 26,000 delegates attending each year where less than a third of whom are women.

The United Nations’ theme this year is women in leadership and the property industry needs to sit up and take note. Just 30% of senior management positions in real estate are occupied by women according to PwC and Real Estate Balance. Gender balance is about creating an environment where everyone within your organisation – men and women – can fulfil their potential. While a vital part of this is ensuring a reasonable balance within your leadership and talent pipeline, a culture that celebrates diversity is just as important.

As we hopefully enter the last chapter of Covid-19 this year, one thing’s for sure: 2021 must see a real focus from the sector on making strides on gender equality. While women are well represented in middle management, many still find it difficult to gain the recognition and support to advance. One challenge women face is highlighted by the fact that people don’t see the greatest gender disparities being at board level. Until the most senior positions are opened up to all, there will never be real progress. It’s important to realise this isn’t about giving women favouritism, but rather creating a level playing field for everyone. And this doesn’t just apply to women but diversity at all levels in traditionally male-dominated senior roles.

Women at work

Source: Shutterstock/Pressmaster

Property is not the only industry desperately lacking in female leaders. Yet, representation of women in senior leadership roles was much lower than comparable sectors such as banking or asset management. The main challenges are a lack of role models, mentoring and openings for advancement. Businesses (and homes) perform better in an environment that enables everyone to thrive. Our most recent project, Epic Marbella, furnished by Fendi Casa was designed to create harmonious environments for families to be successful and the perfect live / work balance.

Most companies understand that having women’s voices around the top table leads to different perspectives, and ultimately helps businesses become more creative in their thinking. Like many females in the property industry, I’ve been on leadership teams where I’m the only female present and I can’t help feeling we can do better in this day and age. In my experience having diversity in an organisation is a recipe for a high performing team. But why are we still so lacking in women leaders?

Experience within real estate, and outside of it, shows that if gender balance is treated like any other priority – a major client pitch, development or acquisition, for example – the plan kicks in and barriers are removed. I hope that this year’s International Women’s Day will shine more light of the lack of female leaders across all industries, not just property. Gender balance is critical for business success and if firms are going to survive in our ever-evolving world, they need to better understand the customers they serve and reflect the environment around them. Businesses need to be

sustainable, providing inclusive cultures that attract talent with diverse thinking and varying perspectives. Putting the commercial case aside, this is also about fairness and equality in our industry.

If more senior decision makers had the courage and confidence to give women leadership roles in our industry would benefit immensely. There is a growing commitment to gender balance across real estate, but change begins at the top.

Anna Masello is Director of Marketing at The One Atelier