A new report, ‘The power of real balance: how diversity can transform your real estate business’ from Real Estate Balance and PwC outlines perceptions of gender equality in the real estate industry. The report, which compares surveys of employees and company representatives from across the UK real estate sector, highlights the changes that need to happen in order to hasten progress and build on the work already being done to improve employee satisfaction on gender diversity.
Real Estate Balance members survey 2016 uncovered that...
Gender balance is a challenge for all industries, but much of the real estate sector is still behind the curve. The survey findings highlight three key reasons for the continuing gender disparities and difficulties in dealing with the surrounding issues:
Many of the employees and companies surveyed pointed to the lack of movement and openings at senior positions. However, this shouldn’t be an excuse, especially as when positions do become available, there may be an unconscious bias among some senior personnel towards hiring or promoting people like themselves.
The companies who responded highlighted their growing commitment to gender balance and the initiatives that had stemmed from it. However, many accept that low senior management turnover and a lack of role models for family-friendly working within management remain issues.
“Systems and processes within organisations favour the status quo, and it is only by examining our biases and changing our systems and processes that we can advance more women to leadership.”
Many businesses across different sectors have embraced flexibility as not just good for parents with young children, but also an effective way to give staff greater autonomy over how they meet professional demands and balance this with their personal aspirations.
A key part of this is challenging the assumption that ‘flexibility’ simply means reduced hours by seeking to promote ‘agile’ ways of working, which may be part-time or full-time, and are flexible in where and when work is carried out. Many of the participants who responded felt that real estate is still tied to long and unsocial hours.
“A mother is still working extremely hard for the firm even if she may leave at 6pm for child care duties. Not everyone appreciates that. There is still a presenteeism ‘hours-in’ culture.”
With far fewer women than men progressing to senior positions, it’s inevitable that women coming into the sector don’t have enough role models with whom they can identify. Yet even without this disparity, women can still face what one respondent described as an “inherent bias in culture and practices”, which shapes how the attributes of leaders are perceived and portrayed.
The promotion of aspirational role models would show that women are reaching the highest levels of the organisation on their own terms. It’s also important to show that both male and female role models work in an agile way if some of the negative assumptions are to be successfully challenged.
“Providing women with mentors or a structured coaching programme has been shown to have very positive results in enabling women to progress with their careers.”
The Real Estate Balance members’ survey highlights the extent to which businesses are at different stages in promoting greater gender balance. Some will be focused on creating the foundations for change, some will be looking at ways to sustain momentum and others will be more advanced and focused on how to realise ultimate objectives.