As the real estate sector grows and changes, so do its requirements and ambitions.
Our Breaking The Bias webinar for International Women's Day focuses on privilege and the link to breaking the bias; the progression from ally-ship to gender parity; and how we can support others to understand privilege and use it to empower others. In line with #BreakingTheBias, this year for International Women's Day, we sat down with ten women from the next generation at AG to talk challenges, opportunities, privilege, and what's next.
To kick-off on a positive note, we talked about the progress that's been made in the sector. The 2021 Global Real Estate DEI survey showed 92% of real estate companies globally had a D&I programme in place, so this is clearly a priority for the sector. One of our Associates in our Corporate team, Dhaksha Giga, noted that in her time in the sector, she's noticed a clear push from clients to recruit and promote women. Increasingly, women are included in client calls, and are a key point of contact at various client meetings. There is also heightened female presence in the media, as more women are giving their opinions and being quoted in various sector pieces.
The challenges are becoming less pronounced, but these ten women have still felt the need to overcompensate in a variety of ways, especially being a young woman in the real estate sector. 'At the start, I always wore really tall shoes, and I made sure to walk in first and say something valuable,' one said. We also heard the importance of avoiding falling into typically female roles – for example, don't make the tea. 'Frankly, you can't make the tea and also run the meeting, so everyone can get their own tea and you can get on running the meeting!'
It's not just up to the women themselves to overcome these challenges though. How can men support these efforts? What do good allies do? Besides volunteering to make the teas, which one woman said was a key characteristic of 'one of the best Partners I've ever worked for' …
As a start, men can be supportive, for example in trusting mothers to tend to their children and still get the work done. These ten women, many of whom are mothers, highlighted the importance of having support when returning from maternity leave, and when caring for their young children. Mostly, this was a positive 'to the extent that nobody ever says "Will you be back later?" They just trust her implicitly to get the job done.'
But more than this, we need men to challenge uncomfortable situations. 'I think in the absence of seeing anybody being anything other than supportive,' one colleague said, 'I can only ask that my male colleagues would challenge anything that they thought was unreasonable, or if I went to them with concerns that they would challenge them too.' The difficulty here is that these situations are often not the traditionally overt sexism and horrendous stories we heard about twenty, thirty years ago. It's now the unconscious things that often men perhaps don't even pick up on. For example, a male colleague being given more responsibility or being assumed to be in a position above his female counterpart; or implicit comments that tight deadlines and high-pressure situations are too much for women to deal with and might result in them getting emotional. These might sound shocking – or perhaps they sound insignificant – but they are all experiences that women across the real estate sector deal with daily. Lisa made an excellent point – sometimes we force ourselves to see the positives, but there are still issues that are very much ingrained. Both Kathryn and Ellie echoed Lisa's point: 'What we're talking about here is sort of, frankly, sexism on quite a low, granular level, a type that many women experience on an almost daily basis. It's the sort of small things, isn't it? That adds up to something bigger.'
This year, AG is focusing on privilege as our theme for Diversity and Inclusion. A huge topic, which these women recognised and gave their thoughts on.
To Dhaksha, privilege is 'acknowledging that people have gone through different experiences and, therefore, how they come to a particular situation or issue or how they have achieved something might be slightly different for them.' Kirsten mentioned the importance of removing guilt from the conversation: 'It's not that I should feel guilty, but you do actually really need to acknowledge it because it's not just about being a woman. It's about that intersectionality of it. And I think we need to get over the discomfort of talking about it.'
Privilege is something we all have, for a variety of reasons, but what can we do about it? How can we mobilise our privilege for good?
For starters, Elizabeth and Holly commented on the importance of 'using our positions in a positive way in terms of supporting other women across the real estate sector and sharing that we're all in it together. That's particularly looking towards the next generation and having these conversations early enough.' Separately, Emily agreed: 'I think if we can mentor those younger people, that's something we could do with our privilege.'
It's also important to use our privilege to support our teams, to have more inclusive conversations which aren't biased towards one particular group.
In line with using our privilege for good, our ten women of the next generation gave tips on what women can do to enter and consolidate their place in the real estate sector, and it all seemed to come down to confidence. Having the confidence to set boundaries, both personally and professionally, which is useful to ensure you get your work done and earn respect. Getting out of your comfort zone and speaking in rooms full of people you don't recognise. Taking on as much industry knowledge as you can so that you can make your mark whilst also developing your confidence. Don't be put off. Believe in yourself. And go forward with confidence, no matter what hurdles you might face.
At Addleshaw Goddard, we believe that if you feel recognised, supported and invested in, you will simply achieve more. And we believe that an inclusive culture helps to encourage and shape fresh ideas. For us it's just common sense. It's why we work so hard to help our people to be the best they can be. And it’s how we keep finding imaginative solutions to complex client problems. We are a BBC 50:50 company, and are consistently ranked in The Times' Top 50 Employers for Women.