The 100 year anniversary of women voting dominated the headlines during 2018. There has also been significant female media coverage empowering women to follow their dreams and to climb the career ladder of their choice. Last year’s Property Investors Awards winners included one woman and so we are asking why are there so few women in the property investment industry?
We spoke with last year’s winner of the ‘New Property Investor of the Year’ award Nellie McQuinn and Director of Property 165 to ask what she thought about the property investment industry, and why last year there weren’t more women winning in property.
Nellie was inspired to begin a career in the property industry when her grandmother left her estate to her when she passed away, with one stipulation, to invest it wisely in property. Her grandmother bought a house in the 1950s for just £6,000, and it was sold almost sixty years later for a hefty profit.
She surrounds herself with good people that work well with her and her business. “It’s a male orientated environment working in the property industry”. Nellie added: “There are always going to be people that don’t work well with women”.
When asked why the property sector is thought of as a male orientated, Nellie replied “People perceive property investment as construction work and see it as a masculine role. Actually, it lends itself to traits such as designing and being organised, as well as being able to have the imagination to see how something will change or develop.”
So what’s her advice for women going into the property industry? It’s “never think it’s wrong to ask questions. Don’t let being a woman let you feel it’s a disadvantage – if you know your stuff it’s not.”
We also spoke to Samantha Hook (a Real Estate partner at law firm Howard Kennedy LLP) and a Property Investors Awards’ judge. She was the chairman of Women in Property London & South East Branch from March 2015 to February 2016. Sam joined the property and construction networking organisation, in 2011, having heard about it from a colleague. Keen to progress in her career, she saw this as a good networking organisation to be involved with.
Women represent only 15% of the property and construction industry workforce. Women in Property aims to address this imbalance by seeking to enhance the profile of women in this sector, both by providing a dynamic forum for women in these professions and by encouraging and nurturing aspiring talent. The role enabled Samantha to network widely, raise the profile of herself and her firm.
When asked did you ever feel it would be more difficult as a woman to become a partner, Sam replied, “I think it is but only because, if women choose to have children then there are the inevitable career breaks for Maternity Leave and the length of Maternity Leave can make it difficult for businesses to hold positions open. Traditionally, a man does not usually have such breaks although things are changing and more enlightened organisations are understanding that the key to a successful team is factoring in parental leave and allowing flexible working – this is important for both women and men, it isn’t just a women’s issue. Also to be a successful working mother means that you have to have an excellent support network at home – not available to all. I was lucky enough to have a good Plan A and an equally good Plan B for childcare and a husband who was supportive of my career too. I’m not sure I would have been able to do so without such support.
I am pleased to report that Howard Kennedy LLP has a great track record in promoting women to partnership recognising potential and achievement in both men and women”
She went on to say “I feel strongly about this issue and often point to the fact that I have been working for 35 years, so even if I spent 3 years not working at full steam what is that in the face of a whole career? I believe that employers need to support working mothers and understand that a woman does not lose her brain when she has children and that maternity leave and children associated absences are just for a short time in the space of a career”
So what advice would Sam offer a female lawyer starting out in her career? “If possible, have your children early – you have much more energy to juggle children and work at that point. I accept this option is not available to all but it did work for me as I changed careers in my early 30’s becoming a lawyer after 14 years in banking. This meant I started my legal career when my children were school age.
If you are not ready or able to start a family in your 20’s for whatever reason then work hard to develop your career first, so that you have credibility built. In each case, once you have had your children and are ready to commit to your career, be vocal about it and show your commitment to your firm. Look for the best child care you can afford and have a Plan B for when this breaks down. Take advantage of the agile working processes that are around today but ensure you are visible when you are working remotely. If you want/need to work reduced hours think commercially about how this could work best for your team rather than best for you. It’s much more likely to be agreed that way.”
Women in Property works hard at encouraging more women into the property industry by holding a prestigious National Student Awards for girls studying built environment courses at University. We also have a schools Roadshow programme where our members go into Primary and Secondary Schools to talk to about their careers to show the varied careers in the property industry.
Sam continued: “I think schools’ careers’ officers need to be encouraged to see property and construction as a good career choice for girls. It is also about having great, visible role models, and ensuring girls and young women can relate to them. Finally, there have been some horror stories in the media (ie Presidents Club #MeToo etc) which are enough to put anyone off the industry but thankfully, in response, there has been a pretty much universal outcry and a real will to change things, so the perception of the industry is slowly changing.”
The Property Investors Awards team would like to hear from you if you are a woman who is interested in becoming more involved in the property industry. Click here to send us a message.