The future is female! Well…not quite yet.

Gender disparity in Real Estate and the wider work place.


Across Real Estate, women are hugely under-represented and still face more of an uphill battle than their male counterparts. There is still some residual ideals from the ‘Old Boys Club’ with networking taking place at stereotypical male haunts such as the golf or cricket club, further ostracising women from networking with their superiors.

By no means is this only a problem in Real Estate. Other industries such as banking, trading, and engineering for example are still struggling to bridge the workforce gender disparity gap. It is not just disparity in the workplace that women face, but also pay.

As of April 2018, women were being paid an hourly rate that was on average 9.7% less than that given to their male colleagues.

Women are only in the last 10 years making any headway in these industries and it does not help female career progression in these sectors, when women who are decisive and driven in the workplace are often labelled as ‘bossy’ or ‘cold’. This is in quite a striking contrast to their male counterparts who demonstrate the same characteristics are described as ‘powerful’, ‘ambitious’ or ‘great leaders’. This reductive labelling goes some way to explain one of the contributing factors to why 2018’s Fortune 500 companies list, only 24 of them had female CEOs. So, despite the fact women are more likely to outperform their male counterparts at both school and university, they far less likely to be given or strive for the high-power roles.

In the past, women have often been seen as a liability as they will probably want to ‘leave and have children/start a family’ so why should a company take the risk?

This view is changing and in the more modern workplace there is an accepting environment of diversity across a number of different spectrums (race, age, sexuality etc.)

Take the millennial female for example, a highly educated and driven individual, PWC found that only 19% of these talented women said that starting a family would result in leaving their current place of employment and only 4% said that this was why they left a previous company. The main driver that women reported for leaving their jobs was lack of career progression, development or low pay.

Interestingly, 18% of millennial men ranked family as a factor to leave work.

One way of looking at this historical opinion of women is as a result of generations of restrictive socio-cultural factors which limited women to a handful of domestic jobs. For example; in the UK shared parental leave was only introduced in 2015, so until then, the majority of women had no choice but to take maternity leave in order to care for their family. Even as late as 2016 working mothers still faced the stigma of taking maternity leave with the EHRC (Equality and Human Rights Commission) reporting as many as 54,000 mothers a year could be being forced to leave their job early as a result of being fired, made redundant or treated so poorly they choose to leave after becoming pregnant or giving birth. A study in 2016 found that 70% of the bosses interviewed believed that women should declare if they are pregnant when applying for jobs, and 1 in 4 believed that it is fair to ask female interviewees if they plan to have children. Women should have the right to choose to take time off for their family without falling into a stereotype and likewise return to work without judgement of being a working mother. Although, there are certainly a signs of positive gender progression that now men have the chance to paid Paternity leave to spend time with their new-borns.

“Networking events for women in the property industry are also vital. The more that women are visible in the industry the more surveying will be understood as an exciting career opportunity for females”

As Alison Earle (Helix), said in an interview in 2015

Helix as a company is a clear example of the growing presence of women in property, with their female CEO Amy Soar and their majority female Property Team. Likewise, The Crown Estate has made huge drives to improve the gender disparity within their company, with their business-wide pay gap sitting at -3%, meaning that on average, women are paid marginally more. They also have a majority female Executive committee, including their Chief Executive, Alison Nimmo. They have made a structured and committed long-term plan to improve gender equality across all their offices and teams.

SHB has an exactly 50% split of men and women within the company and strives to maintain this equality (not just in numbers of staff) but with opportunities, with the leading agency surveyor being a woman! Similarly, British Land has an equality diverse workforce making it one of the key elements of their company ethos.

Equality is edging closer but it will take time, in-particularly within the still male dominated sectors. The challenge is to adapt to social shifts and evolve to a more equal and egalitarian corporate structure. The future certainly looks like one where ‘equality’ will evolve and in the not too distant future become the norm.

A little more….

Helix partnered up with WLM at the beginning of 2018 and in just over 4 months some of the team will be taking part in the WLM Sleepout. Please help them raise vital funds so WLM can continue to help the homeless.