Gender inequality across the property industry is too big to ignore

Claire Fuller, Finance and Operations Director at Grosvenor

Claire Fuller, Finance and Operations Director at Davies Property Partners

According to Women Count 2022, an Insights report from The Pipeline, women still face entrenched systemic barriers on their route to the top despite having more degrees than men and leaving school with better qualifications than men. So, when a recent story in The Negotiator covered how men in the property industry earned 31 per cent more than women, it resonated with Davies Property Partners Finance and Operations Director, Claire Fuller. Here she provides her take on an industry-wide problem.

Whilst it was frustrating to read the recent story around pay inequality across the property industry, it wasn’t necessarily surprising. In fact, it’s now commonplace to read stories of women drawing the short straw across many facets of everyday life – and not just pay.

What is surprising, however, is that despite there being evidence to suggest that simply by having women on the board makes companies more profitable, the problem still persists.

Take the Women Count 2022 report, for example, which, focusing on the FTSE 350, states how the UK economy is losing billions because of gender imbalance, and that if it moved to balanced ExCos – those responsible for decision making – the UK’s GDP could be boosted by around 2.5 per cent.

When you consider the negative media attention that the government faced when GDP fell by 0.5 per cent in December, it’s not hard to imagine the positive attention that a 2.5 per cent increase would draw.

Why then, is the property industry facing a gender inequality gap of 31 per cent?

If you want something done, ask a busy person

I’d like to consider myself as someone who’s both balanced and fair in their outlook. And in that vein, I don’t really care for sweeping generalisations that typically dominate the workplace.

Statements such as ‘men can’t multi-task’ or ‘women aren’t aggressive enough’ are, in my view, absolute nonsense. During my 26 years in the workplace, I’ve seen men who are excellent at multi-tasking and women who could be considered aggressive.

In my experience, however, I’ve noticed that women who return to work as new mums tend to have a renewed focus and efficiency, some of which undoubtedly derives from having to juggle the pressures of a career and motherhood. But this only supports the idea that if you want something done, ask a busy person – regardless of gender.

The problem comes down to balance, or, more to the point, a lack of it. As the same report states, the absence of women in the workplace is self-perpetuating, and that male-dominated leadership teams recruit and promote in their own likeness. Taking these issues into account, it’s not hard to see why women aren’t paid as much if they’re being overlooked for promotion by men in senior roles based on decisions that they are likely to be making subconsciously.

The good news is that it works the other way, too. Female executives on the main board of a company where a female CEO is in place amounts to 55 per cent compared to 13 per cent where the CEO is male.

Back to balance and fairness, then. Evidence points out that, on the whole, there is no obvious malice on the part of senior males in business. After all, much of what’s going on appears to be happening subliminally. The trick, though, is to recognise and be continually aware of it.

Walking the walk (not just talking the talk)

Since Gareth and I took over the business in 2021, we’ve hired nine new people, of which six are women – a move that I believe reflects my appointment to the leadership team. As it stands, with a current workforce of 22 people, we have a female to male ratio of 50:50, which is something that we’re all proud of.

We’re also promoting female members of the team to more senior roles and hiring women straight to senior positions. Natasha Sanchez, for example, has now been promoted to Assistant Lettings Manager after working her way up over 10 years. Samantha Young joined us in November 2022 as Claygate and Hinchley Wood’s Lettings Manager, and we recruited Olivia James in February as Head of Property Management.

There is room for improvement, of course. Our leadership team of six people includes just one female – me. We also have less women than men in senior roles. From my perspective, it is this point that underlines the gender pay gap and one that the team and I will be continuing to tackle as part of our diversity and inclusivity policy.

The key to fixing the problem is being aware of the problem, which I’m happy to say we are. And if more businesses in the property sector become similarly aware, then maybe The Pipeline’s Women Count 2023 report will look very different.

Book a free property valuation in Surrey

Book a Valuation