Women’s Presence in the Property Sector is Growing, But More Needs to be Done
Niki Fuchs, Chief Executive of Office Space in Town, outlines what more needs to be done to improve the prospects for women in the property sector and the steps businesses should take to remove gender barriers at all levels.
Office Space in Town is a UK leading serviced office provider which Niki Fuchs co-founded with her brother, Giles Fuchs. Starting in the industry at the age of 21 as a receptionist, Niki moved up to Conferencing Assistant, Centre Manager, Operations and Training Manager and Managing Director. In 2009, she launched Office Space in Town, and the company has now grown to seven successful offices in London including Blackfriars, Liverpool Street and Waterloo, and a number of others throughout the UK.
Real Estate a “Top Performer” for Female Board Representation
A major positive in the UK corporate world during the past decade is the growth in female representation at board level. It’s gratifying too that the real estate sector, not always a frontrunner in this area, is outperforming many other sectors. But far more still needs to be done.
The positive trend is demonstrably good for business and shareholders, with most people recognising it and plenty of research to support it. McKinsey in 2020 reported that companies in the top quartile of gender diversity on executive teams were 25 per cent more likely to experience above-average profitability than peer companies in the fourth quartile.
The same report found that the higher the representation of women at executive level, the higher the likelihood of outperformance. Companies with a rate of +30 per cent women on their executive teams, in fact, are significantly more likely to outperform those with between 10 per cent and 30 per cent women, and these companies in turn are more likely to outperform those with fewer or no women executives.
What’s more, it has been found that boards with greater gender diversity tend to experience fewer instances of governance-related controversy, such as bribery, corruption and fraud, and overall stronger management of ESG-related risks.
At the end of last year, women were represented on the boards of 39.1 per cent of FTSE 100 and 36.8 per cent of FTSE 250 companies. In the real estate sector, it was 37.5 per cent, putting it among the top performers by industry sector – more so when women in executive and leadership roles is factored in.
The benefits are clear, but the pathway to delivering them can be a little more elusive.
Flexible Policies Don’t Always Have the Intended Consequences
Gender disparity stems in part from a lack of women in lower leadership positions. It’s worth noting that efforts to level the playing field don’t always go as intended. For example, despite the increased adoption of shared parental leave and more support for women returning to the workplace, time spent away from the workplace to care for their family still sets women back while their male peers progress.
Greater representation of women at the top requires a greater number of women at entry level. A combination of female role models and a clear pathway through to leadership roles are also needed. This forms part of a company’s employee value proposition (EVP), which lays out the benefits an employee receives in return for their skills and experience.
A company’s EVP is more than purely remuneration. Training and mentoring, good internal communications, range of work experience, company values and career pathway are all key elements. A high-quality sustainable workplace that fosters interaction and communication, plus a flexible working model – hybrid working, flexi-hours, childcare support etc. – are important too.
The other key ingredient is a modern professional hiring and promotion process. Unconscious bias in all its forms needs to be removed from the process. Ways to do this include blind resumés, so that candidates are picked purely on merit, standardised interview questions and refining the ways questions are asked.
By getting these things right, finding and hiring the best candidates will become far easier. That will ultimately lead to more middle and senior management positions being occupied by the most capable people – very often women.
OSiT has delivered in this area, with a 90 per cent female workforce and a thriving business, it shows what can be achieved with these considerations kept at the forefront of business planning.Download PDF version