International Women's Day 2024: Property industry leaders on inclusion, equality & progress

By PrimeResi Editor

Inspiring women from across the sector discuss whether anything has changed over the last ten years, and what can be done to move the industry forward from here.

Traditionally seen as behind the times in terms of equality and inclusion, the property sector has had plenty of wake-up calls over the last decade – from gender pay gaps to horrific harassment scandals. Yes, we’ve had well-meaning campaigning and rhetoric, but has any real progress been made? To mark International Women’s Day, PrimeResi canvassed some of the most influential leaders in the resi industry, finding out whether change is actually happening – and what can be done to move things forward from here.

The theme for International Women’s Day 2024 is ‘Inspire Inclusion’

Many of the founders, directors and partners we spoke to are positive, reporting a rise in female-owned firms and women in leadership positions. “Previously, women were expected to excel in their professions while downplaying the impact of their home life on their work,” said Lisa Simon, Head of Residential at Carter Jonas. “It often felt like a juggling act, and some days it felt like I was failing at both.

“But now, things are different. Women are more open about their work-life balance, and businesses are promoting diversity to help women succeed and progress…a diverse board, consisting of both men and women, is much stronger.”

Kate Eales of Strutt & Parker agreed that firms have become more proactive in how they attract and retain female talent, which is “making a real difference”.

“Attitudes have definitely changed for the better,” observed Meriam Makiya, Head of Residential for Battersea Power Station Development Company, “with women breaking down many of the barriers which prevented previous generations from reaching the top.”

But all shared Makiya’s view that there is still much more to be achieved.

“The real estate sector still feels quite white male dominated at senior level and strong leadership is needed to redress this balance,” noted Hannah Awonuga, Group Head of DEI at Knight Frank, and a number of “practical priorities” are highlighted by many – including pay parity.

“We need to see systemic change, targeting a much earlier stage if the sector is to attract and embrace a broader spectrum of talent,” said Jess Bishop of DDRE Global, while Priya Rawal of the Luxury Property Forum highlighted how “cultivating a culture of respect and accountability requires collective efforts from both men and women to create a more inclusive future.”

As Lorna Gallagher​​​​ of Vabel summarised: “When we empower women, we all win.”

Has the property industry changed with respect to inclusion and equality over the last ten years, and what can be done to move the sector forward from here?

Priya Rawal, Founder of the Luxury Property Forum: “In the last decade, progress has been made, but top positions remain exclusive, dominated by white privileged men. It’s time for less talk and more action towards positive change – addressing the gender pay gap and dismantling pervasive sexism and harassment.

“Cultivating a culture of respect and accountability requires collective efforts from both men and women to create a more inclusive future.”

Meriam Makiya, Head of Residential for Battersea Power Station Development Company: “The past decade has seen a notable positive shift towards inclusion and equality in the property industry, with great strides being made in a field that was historically dominated by men. Attitudes have definitely changed for the better, with women breaking down many of the barriers which prevented previous generations from reaching the top.

“However, I believe there is still much more to be achieved, in particular amongst the most senior roles within property companies where there remains significant gender disparity. It is crucial that women are promoted into these positions, which will in turn inspire future generations of women within the industry.”

Jess Bishop, Advisor at DDRE Global: “I’ve definitely seen first-hand that the industry has changed for the better. Gone are the days of ‘baby waiting rooms’. For those who aren’t familiar, this was the term used for letting teams, which were historically made up mostly of women. Instead, we’re now seeing much more of a mix of genders across sales and lettings… although, there is still a significant disparity within the industry.

“Longer term, we need to see systemic change, targeting a much earlier stage if the sector is to attract and embrace a broader spectrum of talent. There needs to be more focus in the school curriculum around pursuing a career in real estate. I started in the industry as my dad suggested working in an estate agency to earn money on my gap year. I think most people join the industry for similar reasons, because there is no real exposure to it as a career choice and limited awareness of its opportunities among more diverse backgrounds and skillsets. Whilst the exposure of working in real estate has been bolstered through the rise of real estate shows, particularly in the US and France, we’re still behind in the UK!”

Linda Morey-Burrows, Principal Director, MoreySmith: “Sadly, I don’t think it has, it’s almost going the wrong way. Even though I’ve worked in the industry for 40 years as an architectural designer and founded MoreySmith over 30 years ago, if I join a meeting with a male colleague, there’s often an assumption that he’s the architect and lead and I’m the interior designer and junior. It’s a bit like the doctor and nurse analogy.

“While I have many brilliant male colleagues and clients who are respectful, massively helpful and a joy to work with, there are unfortunately still people who believe women choose the colours and men control the technical aspects of architectural design. Sometimes there is institutional sexism from women too, which is strange to experience.

“The sector must absolutely reject these gendered stereotypes in order to move forward and create an environment where everyone has the opportunity to succeed.”

Kate Eales, Deputy Head of Residential at Strutt & Parker: “Since the start of my career, diversity in estate agency has really come a long way, and much of that change has been realised in the last decade. Firms have become more proactive in how they attract and retain female talent, and also developed career programmes to support women into leadership roles. It’s making a real difference. When I started out there were few, if any, visible female leaders in the sector.

“I am so grateful that as I have evolved into a senior leadership role, I do not feel like the obvious minority and I’m thrilled to sit alongside other women at the boardroom table, and female leaders at industry events. In fact, I believe that many of the best brands in the residential agency space are in some way led by women!”

Tanya Hasking, Head of Lettings at John D Wood & Co: “Having worked in the industry for over ten years, I’ve personally witnessed a shift towards greater gender diversity, particularly in leadership roles. In the earlier years, it wasn’t unusual to sit in board meetings and leadership meetings and be the only woman in the room or at best one of only a handful of women in the room.

“Now, I’m fortunate to be part of a company where such gatherings are far more balanced.”

Hannah Awonuga, Group Head of DEI at Knight Frank: “The real estate sector still feels quite white male dominated at senior level and strong leadership is needed to redress this balance.

“Gender was first to be addressed and remains important but the industry should now consider intersectionality, taking into account other minorities that are unrepresented, such as race, sexual orientation or disability. Over the last year, we’ve really seen employers start to focus on neurodiversity and see it in a more positive light.

“It’s been great seeing measures being put into place to support neurodiverse people, so that their abilities can shine.”

Jane Cronwright–Brown, Savills Head of Residential Lettings & UK Board Director: “As an industry, lettings has always been quite female dominated, although that has changed in recent years. We are proud that 52% of our directors are female within the division.

“One of the biggest changes I have noticed over the last ten years has been raised awareness on certain topics that weren’t as widely discussed in the past. Our menopause group held a hugely successful internal webinar which was attended by a wide range of colleagues and that felt like a big step in the right direction. I was really proud to be part of the conversation and to help people understand some of the day to day challenges.

“If we want to see change, opening up discussion and giving everyone the opportunity to represent and share diversity of experience is essential.”

Helena Moyas de Forton, Managing Director, Head of EMEA and APAC, Christie’s International Real Estate: “I’ve seen many exciting changes and increasing opportunities for women in the real estate industry over the last decade, including a rise in woman-owned brokerages and women in leadership positions.

“While these are positive steps, the industry must keep the forward momentum going by prioritizing equality and providing education and training to empower women.”

Sarah McIntyre, Lettings Director, Harrods Estates: “Having started working as a negotiator in a well-known estate agency chain over 25 years ago, there were very few women who were part of the senior management team, especially in sales.  Since that time the property industry has made good progress in terms of inclusivity and equality, but there is still work to be done. While there is always room for more, one of the most noticeable changes in the last 10 or so years is seeing more women rising through the ranks to leadership roles. These leaders are making waves and doing great work in challenging the ‘old boys club’ image, which unfortunately has historically been so synonymous within our industry.

“We live in an age of accountability and the presence of social media brings with it a level of visibility which makes this necessary evolution, within industry in general, much smoother. There is nowhere to hide anymore and woman shouldn’t be treated any differently in the work place and certainly not discriminated against due to gender, age, maternal instinct or any other factors previously deemed important. These aspects do not qualify how well someone can carry out a role and these stigmas need to continue to be stamped out.

“In terms of the next 10 years, I hope to see further development and more emphasis on celebrating individuals for their merits and achievements. With greater success comes confidence, and I hope that every young girl who starts in the industry, as I did all those years ago, doesn’t feel limited in the level of success they can achieve and realise the sky is the limit.”

Becky Fatemi, Executive Partner at Sotheby’s International Realty and Founder of charity Shadow to Shine: “I don’t feel that we have yet seen big change in the property industry: I look around a room and see little diversity at board level, and at functions it’s very rare that I see a room full of people of colour, or much presence of the LGBTQ+ community.

“Engagement needs to come from the top and discussions need to be had with these people and groups who represent them in order to implement change. In corporate companies, we continue to see people grouped together in the name of empowerment, but this is still segregation in its politest form.

“There needs to be more conversation and doors need to be left more widely open. We need pay parity for women and have the same opportunities for all minority groups at board level.”

Florence Wangai, Head of Asset Management at JTRE London: “We, as an industry, have seen some significant advancements in recent years around inclusion and equality. However, there is still plenty of room for improvement. Many businesses are creating cultures where women can progress in their career, and this is more than just a necessity, it makes good business sense.

“There are also further actions that can be taken by employers to help improve where the industry is at in terms of inclusion and equality, including investment in training programmes for employees to fully understand what inclusion and equality means. It’s important to create a working environment where all employees feel respected and included.”

Rosy Khalastchy, Senior Negotiator, Beauchamp Estates: “I don’t think the sector has evolved greatly over the last decade in terms equality and only marginally in terms of inclusion.

“Yes, the sector’s attitude towards inclusion and acceptance has in the main kept pace with the attitude of the immediate area/population an agent works in/with, but this in many ways is yet to translate into real representation – by which I mean people in post in the sector.

“Property, and particularly estate agency, remains a male dominated sector. Lettings marginally less so, but sales very much so. This seems in some respects a strange situation, in light of the facts that home purchase is invariably as much an emotional decision as financial, and that generally speaking women tend to me more emotionally literate, better listeners and more aware of tone than men.

“The reasons for this lag, or inertia, are multifarious. At the highest levels real estate is a fiercely competitive sector, between vendors, between agencies and between agents. This is perhaps an arena that some would shun or prefer to avoid.  Equally many vendors feel more at ease dealing with a man, as do some buyers. It is difficult to say to what extent the sector is merely responding to current client preference as opposed to not driving change, but for as long as the number of women electing to work in the sector remains quite small, the greater the likelihood of there being little change.

“I have worked successfully as an agent for over forty years, in St John’s Wood, and would not consider myself aggressive: competitive, yes; determined, yes; and patient.”

Lorna Gallagher​​​​, Project Architect, Vabel: “Over the last ten years, so much of the work to date in moving towards greater inclusion and equity has been led by women. Strong female pioneers have opened doors and shown what is possible. In order to move the sector forward, we’re going to need the whole sector to be allies for one another – regardless of gender.  Alongside allyship must be zero tolerance. Harassment and disrespect must be tackled head on in order to create truly safe spaces and positive working cultures.

“Women who are architects are still outnumbered – the gender ratio in students is around 50/50, but we see the percentage of female licensed architects decline as they progress through their careers. Reversing this trend is essential so that we can achieve genuine representation at the table in conversations that shape our cities, towns, neighbourhoods and buildings. Great design can only come as a result of diversity and representation in design, planning and construction.

“When we empower women, we all win.”

Liza-Jane Kelly, Savills Head of London Residential: “Over the last decade, there’s been a real shift towards shared responsibilities in our home lives. That can only be a good thing for women being able to develop in their careers while also raising their family.

“It’s incredibly inspiring to see the progress we have made and continue to make as a company in supporting women. I’ve seen first-hand the positive impact that our programmes have had on women within the business at all stages of their personal and professional lives, whether that’s been during the promotion process or as they’ve settled in after maternity leave.

“Knowing you have people around you to talk to when you need it can make such a difference and it’s great to see the introduction and growth of our Women’s and Family staff networks which give people the platform to build a community.”

Mihaela Cumpana, Sales Manager – Nine Elms, Johns&Co: “As a Sales Manager leading the company’s highest revenue office, I’ve had the privilege of not only achieving success as a woman in business but also witnessing the progress towards inclusion and equality within the property industry during my tenure.

“This recognition serves as a testament to the strides we’ve made in creating opportunities for women to thrive in traditionally male-dominated fields. However, it also underscores the importance of continuing to push for greater inclusivity and representation at every level of our industry.

“Moving forward, we must build upon these achievements by actively championing diversity, empowering women to pursue leadership roles, and fostering an environment where everyone feels valued and supported.”

Hend Maktari, Head of Sales at The Lucan: “Over the past decade, London’s property industry has experienced notable progress towards inclusion and equality, with more diverse and female representation across all demographics in all roles.

“As the world becomes increasingly interconnected, the property industry has been forced to adapt to changes including the rise of overseas investors, evolving client demographics, and the ability to conduct business from virtually anywhere. These changes have led to a notably broader pool of talent entering the industry, including an increased number of women.

“Despite these advances, challenges still persist. Outdated industry practises and insufficient support for women in senior positions continues to create a gap in the industry, hindering female progress and opportunity.

“To move the sector forward, companies must prioritise supportive environments and challenge biases. There is still work to be done to ensure true equality in the industry.”

Yasmin Ulhaq, Founder and Director of Glenfield Property Management: “The property sector has long faced criticism for its lack of diversity. Despite marginal improvements, it’s clear that the current efforts are insufficient for real change.

“While property and construction play crucial roles in society, the workforce doesn’t mirror this diversity, with less than 20% of women in senior roles, indicating a persistent male dominance. However, there has been a slight uptick in the percentage of women entering certain property sectors in recent years.

“For women entering the property world, I strongly recommend focusing on building relationships and expertise. In today’s competitive business arena, being an expert in your field is no longer enough. Success in this people-centric, ever-evolving, and globally connected industry is often about “who you know” and the depth of those business relationships. Embrace every opportunity to learn and grow.

By fostering collaboration and promoting best practices, we can work towards creating a more inclusive environment for women in the property sector. Companies like BNP Paribas and British Land, with women’s support groups, provide valuable support and guidance, contributing to increased employee retention.”

Lisa Simon, Head of Residential at Carter Jonas: “I have noticed a significant shift in the past decade as a working woman and also as a mother. Previously, women were expected to excel in their professions while downplaying the impact of their home life on their work. It often felt like a juggling act, and some days it felt like I was failing at both.

“Successful women were often perceived as aggressive and had to be very resilient to succeed in male-dominated fields. Many working mothers had to rely on support or hire help, while others without those options had to leave their jobs or take career breaks, making it difficult to return to senior roles.

“But now, things are different. Women are more open about their work-life balance, and businesses, including Carter Jonas, are promoting diversity to help women succeed and progress into leadership positions. A diverse board, consisting of both men and women, is much stronger.

“I believe we are moving in the right direction. More women in senior roles will accelerate change and help to create a more diverse and inclusive workplace. My advice to women is to be courageous, put yourself forward for promotion, and ask for what you need to make it possible. Employers are more understanding now, and there is a growing awareness of the importance of diversity and well-being. It is vital for businesses to have senior women at the decision-making table.”

Claire Reynolds, Managing Partner at UK Sotheby’s International Realty: “The industry is slowly changing but it still has a long way to go. It is very male dominated and very few senior management opportunities open up for women. I can see the larger corporates taking steps to change this, with various diversity committees and boards, so the intention seems to be there and I hope the results will follow – time will tell.

“Recruitment will play a vital part in achieving a more diverse sector. Many companies seem to have a certain type of personnel, which they seem to hire time and time again to protect their culture, and this certainly doesn’t help. I am excited to be in a new and growing business, which is very globally focused and as a result diversity is really important when it comes to recruitment and our team. We are proud of the different nationalities and breadth of languages spoken across our team, and we view diversity as a contributing factor in our success.

“Many of my team have expressed their pride in having a female Managing Partner running the business, which makes me proud too – it brings an additional sense of responsibility.”

Co-Founder and Director of De Rosee Sa, Claire Sá: “It’s no secret that architecture has a long-standing history of being a male-dominated field. While there has been an increase in women stepping into leadership roles across the UK in design firms, there’s no denying that women are still underrepresented in the broader property sector.

“The industry must embrace gender equality as an enduring and non-negotiable commitment.  By actively promoting and instilling gender equality values at the senior management level, ensuring accessible inclusive training and industry collaborations, and encouraging and supporting women to pursue education and careers in architecture, design and construction, we can consistently advance in the right direction.”

Rutu Buddhdev, Founder of Amara Property: “We’ve seen an increase in women entering the workforce over the past 10 years, which is a major step on the right direction, however, the uptake on site based roles is still low. This is largely due to factors such as working hours, which are not flexible and a larger amount of manual work that again is not something that is shown as an attractive proposition to young women as they grow up and look to take their first step on the career ladder.

“To improve this over the next decade we will need to improve awareness of the benefits and advantages of stating a career onsite, which can be achieved by developers actively trying to recruit and train more women, with clear career paths beyond the initial apprenticeship or site job. Onsite experience is invaluable and so many miss this crucial part of the journey. We would also like to see an increased work/life balance, with flexible working (harder for a site based role, but still achievable) as this is just the way the world is moving and it is key to getting more women to join our industry.”

Nina Coulter, Savills Head of London Residential Development Sales and UK Board Director: “The property industry has definitely changed for the better over the last ten years.  From a slow start it’s in the last couple of years that we have seen a real difference being made. I am proud of the work Savills has done – and continues to do – on inclusion and equality. It’s a continual process.

“I think women in their 20s joining the business now are more empowered and inspired to grow in their careers.  When I first started in the industry, after university, there were a handful of female directors, but for our young joiners now there is no ceiling. It’s our responsibility to show that the property industry is a career path that’s open to all and is fulfilling and important. Often this starts at a grass roots level going into schools and showing girls what is possible.

“Part of what we do in this industry is to create places and spaces for people and you need a diversity of ideas to implement this successfully – our built environment must reflect the society that it’s built for.”

Gemma Maclaran, Cotswolds advisor, Middleton Advisors: Over the past decade, there have been some positive developments in the industry in terms of diversity and inclusion.

“Many companies have made efforts to increase the representation of women, and there has been a greater focus on promoting equality and fairness in recruitment and promotion processes. It is fantastic to see more women in senior roles and I hope that continues.”

Tania Thomas, Co-Founder Maison Communications: “My personal passion for property, and design, stemmed from childhood, it was interestingly my mother who had a small scale housebuilding business and introduced me to the sector not a male, which I now realise must have been even more unusual then. I still feel the property industry is predominantly male-dominated and we have a long way to go.

“My gender hasn’t been a hindrance to progress itself, but working amongst men certainly has made me feel I have needed to work ten times harder to prove myself if I am to earn a senior position and respect. In turn though it’s this determination to overcome this, coupled with my own passion for property and what I do, that has inspired the fire in my belly and work ethic that inspires my work every day. I still sadly feel on the backfoot when I have to navigate childcare and running a household, and don’t feel enough provisions are there to make this equal and acceptable. Until this happens how can things be equal.”

Kate Brookfield at Vita Properties X Kate Brookfield: “I have seen more women in senior roles over the past ten years, but still very few women commanding MD roles in the industry. Obviously we, as women, still face the attitude of some (not all) men considering that even though we are talented and ambitious, we (women) will eventually need time out for starting families and they (male MDs) will need look to be more flexible with us returning to work after children.

“The fact is that nowadays, families need joint incomes and we work in an industry that requires us to be available at inconvenient hours, however with work from home flexibility, we are meeting clients more during working daytime hours so it in theory should be easier for all parents to continue to perform in their roles and meet targets whilst working around available childcare. I also don’t believe that high street agencies need to open offices to such extreme hours. This leads to inflexibility as bodies are needed in these offices on the high streets. In my experience, this is one of the bigger driving factors for female talent to move into self-employed brokerage style roles (myself included).”

Charlotte Strang, Strang & Co: “The property industry has changed considerably over the past ten years with regards to its diversity and inclusivity.

“Although there is still some way to go, the pandemic accelerated the move to increased flexibility with regards to working from home, enabling women to juggle their careers around the demands of having children and working around school pick ups etc. The Property and Construction industry as a whole is still perceived as being male dominated, particularly by school leavers so it’s important that we show female role models and advertise apprenticeship schemes to attract young female talent to the property industry.”

Lucie Wilde (née Hirst), Colombo Hirst: “Over the last ten years, the property industry has witnessed a gradual shift towards greater inclusion and equality. More women have entered the industry and assumed leadership roles, and diversity initiatives have gained traction. However significant challenges remain. Women continue to be underrepresented in leadership positions and gender pay gaps persist.

“Moving the sector forward requires a concerted effort from all. This includes addressing cultural and systemic barriers that prevent women from advancing, implementing and enforcing policies that promote gender equality as well as providing mentorship and support for female professionals. By empowering women in the industry and actively working towards greater inclusion and equality, the property sector can continue to evolve and thrive.

“We must actively work towards eliminating gender bias and discrimination, as well as advocate for policies that support working mothers. By creating a level playing field for women in the property industry, we can ensure that their voices are heard, their talents are recognised and their contributions are valued.”

Camilla Dell, Managing Partner at Black Brick: “Over the past decade, the property industry has made significant strides towards inclusion and equality. I remember my first years working in the industry for Knight Frank. Back then (2006) there was just one female proprietary partner, Eliza Leigh and I thought to myself, “if that’s the only female partner what chance to I have”? That feeling persuaded me in part to set up Black Brick.

“Today, there is still much work to be done to ensure that everyone, regardless of gender, race, or background, has equal opportunities in this sector, which has traditionally been dominated by white middle class men. To move the industry forward, we need to continue promoting diversity, creating inclusive environments, and implementing policies that support equal representation at all levels. By embracing and celebrating our differences, we can foster innovation, drive growth, and create a more vibrant and inclusive property industry for the future.”

Jenny Naylor, Director, Graf London: “There’s been a growing recognition of the importance of gender diversity and equality in the industry, and a positive trajectory towards more inclusive workplaces, but female representation at board and executive levels has some way to go with pay disparities still evident in certain segments.

“The larger firms tend to have a clearer mandate with mentorship programmes and policies promoting diversity starting to make an impact, but representation at senior levels remain skewed, pay disparities are still prevalent, and segments such as construction and investment have slower progress.”

Henrietta Harwood-Smith Co-Founder of Maison Communications: “I remember clearly being one of only three girls on my graduate scheme of thirty in a global real estate company – it was an eye opener and felt intimidating but was also a positive challenge!

“So much has changed since then but it still feels that there’s a stigma attached. For me in 2024 it’s about ‘understanding’ and ‘flexibility’, encouraging women to go for leadership roles with support and without judgement.”

Emma Seaton, director of buying agency Prime Purchase: “The property sector has changed hugely over the past decade and much of this is down to improved maternity and paternity leave. When I went on maternity leave I needed to get back to work when my second child was three months old. Since then, it’s become much more inclusive, payments have changed and it’s a much more even thing –  it is great that men are taking paternity leave for a length of time as well as women taking time away from the office.

“It is important that more women are in the boardroom. Women offer a different skillset to men so when looking at the senior leadership of an organisation you want to see a diverse team at the top, bringing different experiences and viewpoints to the table.

“Looking forward, it’s important to keep moving at the rate of change that we are experiencing now, constantly reviewing the situation and asking questions. Businesses must ask how they can help young women coming up through the ranks if they want to attract and keep really good people. Flexible working hours, allowing nursery or school pick-ups when children are ill – these things all add up. The last thing you need is a raised eyebrow from your boss because you have to leave early to pick up your child; you already feel bad about doing it but you know you are going to make up the time, and then some. You don’t need the disapproval of the boss, particularly as women are, on the whole, people-pleasers so keenly feel such judgement.”

Amy Reynolds, Head of Sales at Antony Roberts: “The industry has changed for the better but still has some way to go, as women are often under-represented – there should be far more women working across the industry than is the case. The future is definitely brighter than it was, but women working in the property industry should choose their employer carefully. Thankfully, I’m fortunate to work somewhere where there really isn’t an issue and women are highly valued members of the team.”

Chitra Stern, CEO & Co-Founder, Martinhal: “Across the EU, the number of female board members still constitutes only 33% in listed companies; in the UK it’s 40%; with the US lagging behind at 29% and Portugal just having 24.8% female representation.  Yet research over the past decade, repeatedly points at the greater the gender diversity, the better the company performs, achieving higher ROE and lower earnings risk.

“Research indicates that closing the gender gap can potentially boost economic prosperity, especially against a backdrop of our ageing populations. While it’s encouraging, for example, to hear in the UK the increase in government spending towards childcare costs, there is always more that can be done to support working parents’ place in the workforce. One of our mantras, is that we can always do more, and we can always be learning more.”

Venetia Rudebeck, Co-Founder & Director, Studio Vero: “The world has really changed in the last 10 years. One thing I used to feel is that I was really isolated and not really connected to other people within the industry.”

In the last few years especially, I’ve really built up a network of peers and industry experts – including those who would technically be deemed to be a competitor.

“We have a quarterly designers’ lunch where we share challenges, wins and intel, which feels so collaborative and like I have strong support of excellent contemporaries.”

Kate Donneky, MD, Rhodium: “From my days as a property graduate in 2009, when I was one of only a handful of women qualifying as a chartered surveyor, there are now many more women entering the industry and there appears more balance between men and women  across the property sector, which has been refreshing and encouraging to see. However, there is still a long way to go on the issue of women rising to the top of companies, but this is more wide-spread than just property.

“Ultimately reform is needed at government level to support women returning to (and thriving) in careers post-maternity leave. The cost of childcare in the UK is utterly prohibitive and without change, and more investment in early childhood years, sadly there will continue to be an imbalance of men and women in senior positions.”

Catherine Westerling, Head of Lettings at Hamptons: “Significant strides have been taken as awareness and understanding of the moral & commercial benefits of successful ED&I initiatives have increased. Social pressures and media attention have helped maintain focus in this area, meaning there is an increased representation from women and minority communities across the industry over the past 10 years.

“However, more still needs to be done. Diversity is not reflected at a senior level, so attracting and promoting more women and minority groups into leadership roles will be key and the pace of progress needs to accelerate. Addressing the gender pay gap should be a practical priority, while fostering inclusive workplace cultures which attract, celebrate and develop talent from all backgrounds and lived experiences is equally crucial.”

Caroline Donaghue, Director at V1 and Co-Founder of the Real Rendezvous podcast: “We are starting to see change, but we still have a massive mountain to climb! It has to start with all leaders, board directors and managers taking personal responsibility and educating themselves on the situation faced by women in the workplace (and outside!).

“I have found most leaders are unaware of the challenges that women face in their work lives every day.

“If leaders can 1) educate themselves, 2) lead change and 3) inspire, then I believe the sector will transform quicker than we ever could have imagined.”

Phillippa Dalby-Welsh, Head of Savills Country Department: “The industry has changed dramatically for the better. There’s much more awareness of the importance of inclusion and equality and businesses are taking more strategic steps to ensure more inclusivity. Savills has an excellent apprenticeship programme and we embed apprentices in the business afterwards, growing our diversity from grass roots up.

“Women have been really championed in Savills throughout the time I’ve been here. We have a strong programme of D&I activity which permeates all areas and levels of the business, including events, networking and training courses.

“The balance of voices is crucial to making the industry accessible to a wide range of people. In the last 5-10 years there’s been a notable increase in female voices, whether it’s the voice of experience in a particular industry sector or whether it’s a female voice outlining their own career journey.

“One of challenges at senior level is a lack of diversity in the experience-based talent pool when recruiting. We’ve made great strides in the recruitment process to reach a wider pool of applicants and create a level playing field, but to move further forward the process of growing a more diverse group of people up through the business and upskilling a wider demographic of people takes time.

“Being mindful of flexibility is also important, particularly for encouraging skilled women in leadership positions back to the industry after having families. The pandemic showed that we can apply more flex and still achieve great results. This obviously needs to be a business-case first situation but creativity can be applied to make it work for all.”