It’s International Women’s Day and whilst we remain focused on celebrating women’s achievements, raising awareness about discrimination and taking action to drive gender parity all year round, International Women’s Day is an apt opportunity to highlight the importance of going beyond all of this and breaking down those systemic barriers that see women still being treated inequitably.
In relation to the property development sector, this means doing more to ensure that our women can access and work in an environment where there is no place for those feelings some still have that this is an industry more fitting for our male counterparts.
With women increasingly choosing a career in property and construction, our Communications Officer, Amy Burnett spoke to Graduate Development Officer, Georgia De Allie, Senior Management Accountant, Hélène Emond and Operations Manager, Kat Morris to discuss careers, equality, inspiration and more.
Amy: As we all know, there are a multitude of career opportunities within the property industry that go beyond gender and suit a range of skill sets. Could you tell me a little bit about what each of your roles involves?
Georgia: It is so true that there are many different roles within this industry, and I wasn’t aware of the extent of this until I joined Linkcity. I am a Graduate Development Surveyor on the graduate scheme at Linkcity, which, in itself, is a wide-ranging role! Over the course of the last year and a half, I have been building on the skills required to successfully manage property development projects, including legal matters, finance and aspects of design, and planning.
Hélène: I focus more specifically on one of the elements Georgia mentioned; finance. My main role is to assist the Operations Managers so that they make the best possible decisions. By providing my colleagues with key information at the right time we ensure we are adaptable, avoiding any storms and making the most of a tail wind! In more prosaic terms, my role involves overseeing our cash position, budget, risks and more to guarantee everything runs smoothly.
Kat: As one of the Operations Managers that Hélène assists, I am primarily involved in the construction side of our schemes. I work with our construction sister company, Bouygues UK, our consultants, and investors to manage the works on site. I am working on my third scheme now which is a student accommodation scheme in Colchester for the University of Essex.
Amy: And given the variety of your roles, how did you come to decide on a career in the built environment?
Kat: For me, it was slightly by accident! My first job out of university was as a sustainability consultant, which although turned out not to be my final path, introduced me to the construction and property industry. From here, I found a career I genuinely enjoy with a variety of work and a great team of people with real passion for what they do.
Amy: Would you say property development is a career choice that appeals to women?
Hélène: Well, I cannot talk in the name of all women. However, I would say that I work among talented, smart, and dedicated female individuals at Linkcity.
Georgia: I completely agree with Hélène. I am luckily enough to have a female Manager, Managing Director and Chair, so it is inspiring to have role models not just within the industry but within the company itself. Examples like this are what is contributing to a career in property development becoming an increasingly popular option for women.
Kat: Yes, it is a great industry to work in. To build on what Georgia mentions, there are some misconceptions about what the industry is like as a place to work, but I would like to think most of these are dispelled by the time women are actually working in the field. We just need to encourage more women through the door in the first place!
Amy: So how do we do this? What are the barriers that are currently preventing women entering careers in property?
Hélène: I am sure we could write an essay to answer this question! I think part of it is a fact lots of us forget; many engineering schools only opened to women fifty years ago. And whilst society has changed its attitude to women in STEM dramatically since then, there is still a long way to go to dispel the endemic, absurd stereotypes that often translate as a lack of female role models and gender bias.
Kat: I think there is definitely still a lack of information in relation to the number and variety of roles within the STEM sectors. This can fuel unconscious bias based on an outdated view of what working in the industry is actually like.
Georgia: Exactly. It may still be a male dominated industry, but that does not mean women cannot thrive and enjoy working in it. And with the scales slowly tipping towards a more evenly balance work environment, I’m sure these barriers will continue to be lowered.
Amy: Coming back to my question of how we break down these barriers completely, how can we better promote careers in property to the younger generation? And going further, what should businesses and the government do to encourage more women to enter the sector?
Hélène: What a complex question! To answer the latter point, businesses need to ensure that a woman never has to choose between becoming a mother and having a successful career by embedding inclusivity and flexibility into the foundations of the way their companies work. As for the government, I think education and employment opportunities are at the heart of it.
Georgia: Hélène’s last point is crucial to how we can better promote careers in property to the younger generation. It is not just the government that has a part to play in this; businesses also need to be proactive in engaging with and encouraging the younger generation, for instance by visiting schools and colleges to showcase the opportunities available.
Kat: I agree. Education is key to opening up the industry and urging girls to consider careers which may previously not have occurred to them. Only through being able to make truly informed choices can change realistically happen.
Amy: What part do you see yourself playing in the promoting of women in property within Linkcity and your wider network?
Kat: Being visible and available to those starting out or considering joining the industry is a priority for me. I think representation is very important; if women can see other women like you working in a particular role that they might not have originally considered for themselves, it can make all the difference in how they envisage their own career or a future opportunity.
Georgia: For me, it’s about making the most of the volunteering days we are entitled to at Linkcity to get involved with the work we do in raising awareness with schools, colleges and other organisations like Women in Property or Women into Construction.
Hélène: I have been a Linkcity representative in the Bouygues Group’s women’s network, Welink, for a couple of years now. I have met many incredible, talented women through the network, and have played my part by organising events, delivering training sessions and being a listening ear when needed.
Amy: Having delved deeper into all of the above, would you recommend the property development industry to other women and girls?
*a unanimous 100%*
Georgia: It is an exciting industry to be a part of and whilst there are still improvements to be made, it has come a long way. I would not let being a woman put anyone off joining the property development sector, if anything I would advise women to make it more of a reason to join us and bridge the gender diversity gap whilst hopefully also pursuing a fulfilling career.
Hélène: Everyone has something to bring to the table and in any space where an underrepresented group is given a voice, fresh perspectives and ideas always come through. In a business capacity, this often also leads to business improvement. So, to other women and girls, be part of that improvement and join our sector!
Kat: Georgia and Hélène have said it very well; I simply cannot imagine working in a different industry and having the same level of job satisfaction.
Amy: Finally, where do you see the sector heading in terms of gender equality?
Georgia: The sector is definitely heading in the right direction; I am confident that progress will continue to be made. I hope it picks up momentum and happens quicker than we have seen it in the past.
Hélène: We will get there eventually! It will take more than a couple of decades to break down and completely eradicate attitudes that have been around for centuries, no matter how absurd and destructive these now so obviously are.
Kat: Yes, there is a long way to go but change is happening. If we keep celebrating women, raising awareness and increasing opportunities, this should have a snowball effect on making the industry more obvious and appealing to women.