The Managing Director of a high-end London estate agency has called for “real change” within the “archaic” property industry, as the furore over a racist Tweet continues to engulf one of the sector’s biggest brands.
Savills made headlines for all the wrong reasons yesterday, after racist comments were apparently posted via the account of an employee following England’s Euro final defeat. The commercial building manager, based in Manchester, has been suspended pending an investigation and the matter referred to Greater Manchester Police. Savills was swift to issue statements reiterating its “policy of zero tolerance on any form of racial abuse or discrimination”, but the episode is shining a light on a systemic problem.
The spewing of racist content on social media by some England “fans” following Sunday night’s penalty shoot-out caused outrage across the board. But it came as little surprise to Rokstone boss Becky Fatemi. “I continue to be deeply saddened, but not shocked, by the discrimination and prejudice that exists across the property industry,” she says, revealing that she experiences racism and sexism “on a regular basis”.
“If we are to change the archaic property industry we must start at the very top tier, with the largest companies”, she says, suggesting that a “cross-company, industry-wide task force” be created to address the issue and promote diversity in the property sector.
Responding to yesterday’s social media storm, Savills issued this statement: “Savills abhors and has zero tolerance to any form of racism and racial discrimination and is appalled by the racist comments in these tweets. Savills is immediately investigating and will take appropriate action.”
That was followed a few hours later with this: “Savills confirms that the staff member connected with the racist comments placed on Twitter claims that his account was taken over by a third party and that the matter is being referred to the Greater Manchester Police. Savills has acted swiftly and confirms that the individual is suspended from duty pending the findings of this investigation, which is being progressed as a priority. Savills has a policy of zero tolerance on any form of racial abuse or discrimination”.
“Racism is utterly unacceptable in any circumstances,” agrees the Chief Executive of Propertymark, Nathan Emerson. “Property agents deal with members of the public and as such have a duty to treat all parties with equal respect. As a body who represents agents, we never want to see an incident like this occur and such behaviour doesn’t have a place in modern society. We trust Savills to take appropriate action.”
Priya Rawal, a construction lawyer and founder of the The Luxury Property Forum, has also spoken out. “This has to stop now,” she entreats. “If you are tired of hearing about racism, imagine how tired people are of experiencing it. There is no neutral position on racism. It is abhorrent and sickening, but unfortunately rife in our country, society and industry. The only choice is to speak out and act. It takes all of us to fight and and work together for a better future.”
Weighing in on the matter, Prime Minister Boris Johnson Tweeted that the England football team “deserve to be lauded as heroes, not racially abused on social media. Those responsible for this appalling abuse should be ashamed of themselves.”
Becky Fatemi, Managing Director of Rokstone: “Savills has launched an internal investigation after a manager allegedly posted a racist tweet following England’s Euro final defeat.
“While we wait for details to unfold, I continue to be deeply saddened, but not shocked, by the discrimination and prejudice that exists across the property industry.
“Over my 25 years in the sector I have experienced racism and sexism first hand, and it still happens to me today on a regular basis.
“I run a very diverse team in Prime Central London and am starkly aware that there are few other estate agents operating in the area which can say the same.
“If we are to change the archaic property industry we must start at the very top tier, with the largest companies.
“Currently, the majority of the executive boards within the sector do not have anywhere near enough female representation nor people of colour.
“I am happy to work with other agents and lead a cross-company, industry-wide task force to start making change real within property.”