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Date: 8 March 2023

Author: Rachel Bartlett

Despite progress in recent years, market estimates from 2021 show that women make up just 15% of the property and construction workforce in the UK.

The team here at MSP Capital is 48% women, with strong representation across our senior leadership and board of directors, we believe more can be done industry-wide to ensure new talent is coming in.

As the starting point for this journey,we invited a group of senior women in property to say what challenges and issues they have faced in their careers and what more needs to be done to achieve a gender-equal industry free from bias, stereotyping and discrimination. Speaking about the lender’s plans, Rachel Bartlett, our Marketing Manager, says “We have been working hard in the background to ensure our ESG strategy has a clear direction and focus, which enhances and supports the industry as a whole. We are proud of our journey so far and the learnings from this research has helped us to define the next steps to bringing balance to our industry.”

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The property industry is still seen as male dominated, something we, at MSP Capital, are keen to address in our ESG strategy.

Researcher Julie Murley from White Tiger, an independent research consultancy, conducted the interviews and presented her findings back to the team in February 2023.

Julie says “The women I spoke to offered first-hand insight. They identified a clear juxtaposition whereby women want more balance and equality but do not want to be showcased or rewarded based on their gender. They are craving real change from grass roots upwards.”

The interviewees represented a host of essential services across the property industry, namely surveying, development, building contracting, finance and investment.

The group is clear that the industry needs talent no matter the gender and that women have an important role to play by creating a balance that will elevate the industry. 

“On the ground, women bring a lot to the party,”

Says Oxfordshire-based property developer and building contractor Lynda King. “They’re industrious, flexible and entrepreneurial.” But while the interviewees agree the number of women working in property is on the rise, they feel more needs to be done to raise awareness of the industry as an attractive career choice for younger women starting out after school, college or university.

“It’s better than it was, but it’s not as good as it should be,” says Lynda. “It’s a hard nut to crack.” Reflecting the sense of imbalance in the industry, interviewees spoke of instances where they felt excluded and marginalised, something they felt could be a major stumbling block for women trying to progress. They also cite a lack of understanding or support around issues such as pregnancy, motherhood and menopause.

Putting on a persona is something all interviewees say they have felt compelled to do at times, but while there is still a way to go, attitudes are changing for the better. Rachel Membury, Financial Controller at investment and management company Redtale in Dorchester, says:

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“Two decades ago I would have been wheeled out as the only woman manager, and it felt awful. It’s different now.”

Despite the lack of gender balance, the group still has a sense that women can and do make progress in the industry and there is no mood of hopelessness or helplessness.

“If you work hard, you get somewhere in our sector,” says Rachel, while Lynda adds: “It’s about determination.” The group was also asked for their attitudes to industry events, which they say can be challenging for women. This shed an interesting light on the rise in recent years of women-only events which the group feel can smack of tokenism.

 Although they see value in women-only events, especially as a way of building a network of contacts, they say care needs to be taken in how these events are marketed as they can miss the mark and come across as clichéd or patronising.

One way to change perceptions, they feel, is to have more high-calibre women speakers alongside the male presenters. “I’d rather an event was mixed as you have a better chance of networking, ” says Nicola King, Chartered Surveyor at Wimborne surveying practice Wellington King. 

Summing up, Julie says:

“The women we spoke to see themselves as business people first and foremost rather than women in business. They don’t want to be made to feel different – they just want to be involved.

 Each said they’d had their credibility and confidence questioned at times and feel that women should stand together more to drive change and recognition. They seek greater visibility in the industry and encouragement to bring new women in as well as targeted support for career progression.”

We aim to use the feedback from the interviews to address how best to attract younger women into the property sector and nurture their talents. We will hold a follow up session with the group to look at next steps and how to turn their insight into actions in the coming months.

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