Inspiring the next generation...

Main Image

Lorna Brown, WiP National Student Awards Champion

Over the last few weeks I have met some truly inspiring young women.  In my inaugural year as Awards Champion for Women in Property's National Student Awards and the 11th year for the Awards themselves, I have been privileged to join some of the regional judging panels.  Sitting alongside a range of industry professionals, I wasn't the only judge to be both wowed and delighted by the enthusiasm, talent and emerging skills of these undergraduates.

The WIP National Student Awards is an area I am passionate about so here is a brief summary of how the Awards came about. The Awards were launched as a 'one off' to celebrate WiP's 20th anniversary back in 2007.  They were such a success for participants and employers that they have run on and we now find ourselves some 813  students later, assessing the class of 2017 from an even bigger range of Universities and courses.

Open to second year (third in Scotland) students studying a built environment degree, we ask Universities to nominate their best female students, one per degree course, which could include any discipline from Surveying to Architecture, Engineering to Planning, Landscape Design to Property Finance.  2017 is a record year with 105 students being nominated, from Universities across the UK.

After an initial round of judging in each of WiP's branch areas followed by awards and networking events in the spring and early summer, the regional winners go before a national judging panel in September.  The same night they experience the celebration of a 'Best of Best' black tie Awards dinner, when one of the 13  finalists will be announced as the 2017 national winner. This year the event will be held on 20th September, at Claridge's - put it in your diary, it is a night to remember and has become, in my view, one of the most enjoyable evenings on the industry calendar.

During the first round of interviews, the students are asked about a specific piece of coursework or project. We talk about diversity, role models, current affairs, ambition. This is a valuable opportunity for them to practice their presentation skills, meet high profile industry professionals and test their networking know-how.  As judges we cast our minds back to when we were at that stage in our education.  Would we have been this confident, this sharp, this articulate?

We are extremely grateful for the time the judges dedicate to this process.  However, I believe there is mutual benefit for judges and participants.  Judges are in the enviable position of meeting some truly superb future recruits, ahead of the wider industry. We have had instances in the past where judges have been so keen to recruit certain students, they have actually got into 'recruitment wars'. As a 2nd year undergrad, this is a very unusual position to be in.  Furthermore, the majority of these girls find themselves with summer work placements, internships and graduate placements, all thanks to the opportunity the Awards programme presents.  The Universities (44 this year) also benefit; with student employability a key target for them, the kudos of having finalists, winners and work placements as part of this package is certainly a terrific sales tool for their institutions.

These students are the future stars of our industry. It is clear that our University Built Environment faculties have some very bright, ambitious young women.  This is great news for the industry because we are going to need them, more now than ever before.  We have an impending skills crisis, particularly with the unknown quantity of Brexit on the horizon, so encouraging as many young women as possible to enter - and stay - in the industry is critical.  It should be unthinkable that we will lose some of these women at a later stage, because the industry is only just waking up to the very real issues of retention, flexible hours, agile working and the mid-career issue.  Unfortunately, that is another story, for another blog.

The Gender Pay Gap

Main Image

Rachael Sherratt, Associate Director, NOMA Architects

WiP South West Committee Member

Last week I attended the Women in Property SW event on the 'Gender Pay Gap - how to reduce it and why'. Hosted by RPC Law at their Bristol office, there were over 20 attendees and 3 expert speakers:

  • Zara Nanu, founder of Gapsquare, a tool for calculating the gender pay gap within your business
  • Patrick Brodie, specialist employment lawyer with RPC
  • Sarah Pinch, MD of Pinch Point Communications, ex-President of the CiPR and Non-Exec board member

The event kicked off with each of the speakers talking about their own specific area of expertise and then moved on to a question & answer session. Zara explained how the construction industry currently has one of the highest gender pay gaps in the UK. Put simply, this means that within construction, women are less likely to appear in senior roles - meaning either a career break to have a family or the desire to work flexibly to fit around family life, is something which is pushing women into more junior roles when compared to their equally-competent male counterparts. This is also apparent when promotions become labelled as time-dependent - e.g. after 6 years service. Or if a senior role is labelled as 'full-time' - just because it always has been, rather than because it has been assessed and determined it needs to be. As Sarah debated "we need a road map of how to get more women into senior positions". In business terms, research has shown that broad diversity within both ethnicity and gender enhances creativity and market reach in that business. The Federation of Small Businesses has even published a report on 'Women in Enterprise: The Untapped Potential'. So if it makes good business sense, why aren't all senior executives demanding it? Potentially with the new legislation they will be. There is intention for the government to start publishing league tables of companies on a sector-by-sector basis which means their gender pay gap will suddenly become a PR/ marketing tool. Patrick said that the reporting requirement and in particular the narrative used by a company to support and add colour to the reported statistical data will for organisations which lead on the diversity and inclusion agenda act as powerful "mechanism for the engagement,retention and recruitment of people", speaking directly to the principles and strength of inclusion, collaboration and diversity throughout and particularly at the higher levels of a company . And when the cost of replacing a member of staff can be upwards of £30,000, it suddenly becomes a fairly key part of a HR programme.

Currently the new legislation only requires companies with 250 or more employees to report their gender pay gap, however employees in the room who worked for companies which fall into that category had received no information about it from their employers, so it will be interested to see how upfront and open companies actually are about results in advance. The Women and Equalities Committee have also asked the government to consider lowering the threshold immediately to 100;  the hope is that many more companies will aim to get ahead of the game, take a lead and look to assess their gender pay gap in order to work out ways of reducing it if applicable. The tool at www.gapsquare.com is a free report/analysis guide - all you need is payroll data for the month of April (or specifically for 6th April) and it will clearly set out what your gender pay gap is. All members were urged to talk within their businesses about looking into this tool to see if they can be part of the movement to make a difference.  

Sarah also highlighted that there is also current opportunity (before 12 April) to input into the government response to the gender pay gap by commenting or submitting a question to Justine Greening, Secretary of State, here: http://bit.ly/2otVCdr . I am currently thinking of a number of questions and it would be great if plenty of other Women in Property members looked to submit questions too.

The event ended on a constructive note of what we should all be doing to work together for change, both for ourselves and for the next generation.  Underlying sexism (whether conscious or sub-conscious) should always be picked up on and challenged. We need to applaud and highlight women as role models within our sectors - the more we can tell the story of current achievements, the more we can reassure the next generation that things are changing. We also need to talk to one another about salaries and promotions, and get involved with mentoring (both as a mentor and a mentee) to ensure we are being given that opportunity to discuss problems and establish solutions. I am a member of the Women in Property mentoring scheme and I would strongly urge other members who aren't yet signed up, to contact your branch representative to get involved. Together we can work to #BeBoldForChange

Lean in - shout out

Main Image

Sandi Rhys Jones, Rhys Jones Consultants

Leader of the WiP Mentoring Scheme

Triggered by current events, this post is about audibility as well as visibility, the right both to speak and to be listened to with respect - or 'How to be heard when your voice is softer,' as I say when delivering management and career development training. This can be a tall order, whether you are project manager on a construction site, a newly promoted member of a Board or a politician working in a tribal time warp.

"When a woman stands up, she is told to shut up and sit down.…But I will tell you that women are tired that different rules are applied to us in a different way." These words were spoken last week on CNN by the doughty Barbara Mikulski, the longest serving woman in the US State Congress who has just retired after 30 years.

Retired she may be, but retiring she is not. Her forceful words were made after Senator Elizabeth Warren was rebuked and then prevented from reading a 30 year old letter from Martin Luther King's widow Coretta at the confirmation proceedings for Jeff Sessions, the controversial candidate for the post of Attorney General.  The unprecedented rebuke of Warren was roundly condemned by many, with Mikulski accusing senators of selectively employing the rule book, supporting her claim by giving examples of men who have made direct personal attacks without censure.

 "I see this as a pattern of behaviour," said Barbara Mikulski. "Women stand up in the boardroom, the workplace and now even on the Senate floor, where we have the same job, and the rules, they're applied differently to us and they were applied differently to Elizabeth Warren."

The challenge for a woman is not only being heard, but also protecting her intellectual property when someone around the table takes ownership by repeating her words - to a roar of approval. That is when having a champion, sponsor or supportive colleague is so important. And last week in the Senate, there were four male colleagues who stood up to the plate after Elizabeth Warren was silenced and proceeded to read the same letter - without interruption.

Certainly Barbara Mikulski has plenty of wise words to share, after an extraordinary career for which she was presented the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2015. She was the first woman elected to the Senate who did not have a husband or father who served in high political office. She was also the first woman to chair the Senate Appropriations Committee and served on many others including Health, Education, Labor, Pensions and the Select Committee on Intelligence. A tireless campaigner, one of her recent achievements was to push through legislation on equal pay for women.

Back to the importance of acknowledging and listening to different views, with respect. When the number of women in the Senate rose to 20, Barbara Mikulski organised bipartisan dinners for all her female colleagues, Republic and Democrat alike, with the inviolable rule that 'the event was a zone of civility even when we disagreed.' A rule to be welcomed in workplaces on both sides of the Atlantic.  

Mikulski warns that the Warren incident will have a long lasting effect on women's activism, referring to the hundreds of thousands of women who have marched in protest against the newly appointed 45th President of the USA and the policies and behaviour he embodies. Like many of the men and women I marched with in London on 21 January, I find it difficult to believe that in 2017 we are still dealing with so many of the same discriminatory practices and attitudes that women protested about a century ago, but there is a growing determination to bring about change.

As I was finishing this post, Sandi Toksvig was echoing these sentiments on BBC Woman's Hour and talking about the importance of women speaking for what they want and deserve to get. In particular she called for equal pay - a topic of much personal conjecture when she took over from Stephen Fry as host of the tv programme QI.

So what can we do? We should shout out our thanks to the increasing number of men who are supporting the diversity cause - including Sir Patrick Stewart, Simon Callow, Sir Ian McKellen who added their powerful voices and presence to the Women's March London. We should provide practical and realistic ways of assisting management to make change.

And like Sandi Toksvig, Meryl Streep, Barbara Mikulski and Elizabeth Warren, more women should shout out for themselves, for others who need support and to remind people of their presence. Like Rose AnnVuich, who became the first female member of the California State Senate in 1977 and who rang a bell whenever her fellow Senators addressed the collective members of the Senate as "Gentlemen," to remind them that the chamber was no longer exclusively male.

This story reminds me of my time on the board of a construction and property company. Unlike the FT columnist Lucy Kelleway, who does not believe that women non executives should promote or support women in the workplace, I was active in helping the company increase its proportion of women from 13% to 30% - in addition to carrying out the usual responsibilities of governance, audit and risk management.

On stepping down from the board after seven years, I presented the chairman with a mason's gavel and block with the request that it be used to open every board meeting with the statement "Remember, the best person for the job might be a woman."

Killer Heels?

Main Image

Sandi Rhys Jones, Rhys Jones Consultants

Leader of the WiP Mentoring Scheme

'Dress like a woman' is the latest dictat emanating from the White House to female staff, triggering witty and withering responses from women who are posting photographs of themselves appropriately clothed to fly helicopters, perform autopsies, command ships, fight fires, administer communion, race cars, and so on. In other words, jobs where the Ivanka Trump workwear range of high heels and figure hugging sheath dresses might pose a clear and present danger to the wearers and their customers.

But whilst President Donald Trump may currently be the most prominent - and deserving - misogynist target for feminine ire, he is not alone in demanding stereotypical dress wear for women at work. Only last week the UK Government published its report High heels and workplace dress codes: urgent action needed. The report condemns the frequent flouting of existing law against discriminatory dress codes and calls for a new framework and increased penalties for employers who breach it.

Triggered by a petition started by a woman sent home without pay when she arrived for work in flat shoes rather than the high heels stipulated by the employment agency, the two committees set up to investigate were inundated with examples of workplace discrimination, including demands that women wear high heels, revealing outfits and heavy make-up.

The ‪#DressLikeAWoman furore has set me thinking back many years, to the day I arrived at the City offices of my first job in London and was issued with a full length overall, buttoned from collar to hem and made of slippery blue nylon. To my amazement, I was told that this is what I had to wear over my clothes, every day, and on no account should I wear a belt. The reason? The company did not want their male staff to be distracted by the female form - until 4.00pm when a buzzer sounded and we women could emerge from our shapeless sacks and the chaps were allowed to smoke cigarettes for the final hour of the working day.

At the time when the City firm was insisting that its women staff cover up so as not to distract their male colleagues, rather than revealing more to attract clients and visitors, it was the swinging sixties. It was the time of Mary Quant, Barbara Hulanicki, Kiki Byrne. It was the time of mini skirts, hot pants, white boots, dramatic black eyeliner and bright pink lipstick. Body stockings and sheer tights were invented - perfect for those who, like me, crocheted our own short lacy frocks.

There were articles in the press about men asking for books on the top shelves of libraries and dropping items in shops to encourage short skirted assistants to reach up or bend down. So managers and HR departments may have thought that insisting all women staff wore blue overalls removed the need for tricky conversations with individuals who were perceived as pushing workwear boundaries.

It did not take me long to abandon the insurance company and its blue nylon overall to move into the heady, creative world of global advertising agency J Walter Thompson and then to spend three years as a fashion journalist. I would like to think that my memory of dressing distinctively yet appropriately for work, reserving the crocheted frocks, catsuits and eyeliner for leisure time, is a realistic one.

Then as my career progressed, and I became an employer, there were occasional tricky issues around staff dress and appearance. The most difficult one arose from the decision to introduce 'dress down Friday.' It soon became apparent that the art of smart casual is a rare skill, particularly amongst British men. After a few weeks of grubby jeans, tired sweaters, down at heel footwear and so on the experiment came to an end - and nobody objected.

I became increasingly involved in promoting and supporting women in construction, including the Purple Boots campaign in 2010 to make properly sized workwear and protective clothing available for women. Dunlop responded by producing safety boots in women's sizes, but it wasn't until January 2016 that Transport for London (TfL) produced its first ever women's safety clothing range, following a successful six-week staff trial. The new range includes high-visibility jackets, trousers, gloves and adjustable eye protection and a tailoring service to ensure female staff have access to better-fitted, safer PPE.  

The TfL initiative is to be applauded of course, but there is a degree of irony in that the introduction of appropriate clothing was seen as a fitting celebration of 100 Years of Women in Transport.  It reminded me of the women fighter pilots in Japan whose reward in passing the rigorous training a few years ago was to be issued with properly fitting aviator kit.

So here we are, several decades from when I was obliged to don a blue overall to conceal my female form and we are living in a world where in some countries women are forced to cover themselves completely from the public eye by wearing the burqa or the niqab.  Meanwhile an increasing number of other countries forbid women from wearing such clothing and some businesses want their women staff to present themselves in a way that at best could be described as attractive and at worst, alluring.

Modesty or threat, freedom or protection - the issues around dress codes for women are complex. But it shouldn't be too difficult to agree reasonable guidelines for women working in democratic, mature countries. So congratulations to Nicola Thorp for setting up the petition that attracted more than 152,000 signatures and led to the UK Government report calling for an end to discriminatory dress codes in the workplace. At a time when people are questioning the effectiveness of protest, this is a great example of one determined individual succeeding in bringing about action.

Picture: US surgeon Rebecca Alleyne posted this picture on Twitter, saying That's me on the left wearing my favorite outfit ‪#DressLikeAWoman

WiP/CIBSE BREXIT round-up: "If 2016 is when we saw Brexit, 2017 will be the time when we see the consequences of it"

Main Image

Rachael Sherratt, Associate Director , NOMA Architects

WiP South West Branch Committee Member

Rachael Sherratt recently co-organised an event with CIBSE to debate BREXIT, hosted by ARUP. Here she gives us an overview of the discussion.

Last week The Association of Women in Property and CIBSE South-West held a joint event on BREXIT and the impact on the south-west construction industry. Attended by over 100 people, and kindly hosted by ARUP, the evening was full of insightful questions and expert opinion. The panel was chaired by Peter Bull, Director at ARUP and the expert panellists were:

- Hywel Davies, Technical Director CIBSE and government advisor

- Jo Davis, planner and Senior Director Bilfinger GVA

- David Gascoigne, Managing Director at pensions specialists Trigon Ltd

- Mark Alker Stone, Architect and Director at AWW

As we are frequently finding, the issue of the skills gap dominated conversation. Better training for young people is just the start. Jo Davis explained how it is an issue everyone working in construction needs to address in order to find a solution. Not only do we need to consider young people but also how to change the cycle of people aged 30-40 of all genders who become disillusioned with construction. Hywel Davies remarked that encouraging new employees of both genders, as well as retaining people, are both issues we can do something about with the right proactive attitudes. And when so much of the issues around Brexit are out of our control, it is essential we do face head-on anything that we have control over. As well as existing skills shortages, the construction industry may have to deal with further issues around non-UK nationals if Brexit policy dictates. Mark Alker Stone reiterated that 10% of the construction workforce was born outside the UK, and it isn't always the case that these are the lower paid, unskilled labourers - indeed on Hinckley they are very highly skilled specialists. So replacing such skills if Brexit brings about restrictions on non-UK workers will not be a quick or easy process. 

It is this level of uncertainty that is hitting the construction industry hardest, slowing growth and investment as David Gascoigne explained "we do not know what the landscape looks like, so investors are waiting to understand the landscape before making any decisions. If 2016 is when we saw Brexit, 2017 will be the time when we see the consequences of it". Owing to the uncertainty around this sector, rising inflation and collapse of the Sterling, investment has dropped massively. 64% of materials are procured from the EU therefore it is inevitable the currency issues we are facing will affect projects across the board and cross over into the labour market as well. As Jo Davis highlighted, deals being announced now were done prior to Brexit so these are not really an indicator of investment health post the Brexit vote. David Gascoigne remains optimistic that a positive outcome might be possible through overseas investment into the UK increasing owing to the fall in the value of Sterling. However investors are nervous, and projects with long term lets and indexation links are being considered safer havens for investment. This doesn't solve the issue that inflation will have an impact on construction costs. As Mark Alker Stone explained, contractors are already concerned when asked to tender for large projects not being let for 12-18 months owing to this level of uncertainty around inflation. Inevitably this will also lead to prices increasing. 

Hywel Davies reassured the room that the government has neither the time nor the money to re-write the 40,000 plus pieces of legislation in existence, and so a lot of the laws around the Climate Change Act, EPCs/SAPs, Eurocodes etc, will remain as is. The same applies to the majority of planing law, which is and always has been in the control of the UK government. One area that could hopefully change is the waste laws from the EU, which create barriers to reusing construction materials, so could have a positive outcome on cost and productivity if altered. Another positive outcome could be that procurement will not have to be via OJEU, which Jo Davis interprets as paving the way for more SMEs, or public and private sector partnerships. We are all well aware of the tightening belts in the public sector, and the delays that come hand in hand with local government. Therefore we need to be consciously looking to other partnerships for projects that have realistic expectations of moving forwards. That is not to say the government cannot do its part to help - indeed all the panellists agreed infrastructure is going to be critical moving forwards, and that is something which the government does have funding for. David Gascoigne explained that the Chancellor's 'Housing Infrastructure Fund', which is £2.3bn to deliver infrastructure to 100,000 houses in areas of high demand will be a positive outcome. The government acknowledge they need to increase growth and are trying to think of ways to stimulate this. However, this alone is not going to create sufficient positive outcomes for the construction industry. As Mark Alker Stone summarised, "we need to be innovative and smart". That means considering waste reduction, better use of technology, and better use of offsite construction. And thinking outside the box in all those areas. So offsite does not need to mean panels built in a factory a few hundred miles away, it could mean whole houses built a few thousand miles away in China, or skills outsourced across the world using BIM technologies. 

Whether the proposal that the UK needs to consider purchasing more products & skills from other countries in order to successfully feed its own construction industry will also in turn be detrimental to the manufacturing industry of the UK will remain to be seen. What is obvious though is that we all need to keep our eyes and ears open to the announcements of the government plans for Brexit which may even start filtering through this week, and be ready with an action plan.

 

Women in Property South West Branch Networking Mum’s Group

Main Image

Louise Gill, Associate, Curtins Consulting

WiP South West Branch Committee Member

My name is Louise Gill and I am an Associate leading the transport planning team at Curtins in Bristol. I provide professional advice to Developers seeking to bring forward sites for a whole range of land uses not just in Bristol but nationwide.  I offer advice on access issues, prepare Transport Assessments to consider the impact of development on the highways and transportation infrastructure and prepare and administer Travel Plans to encourage the use of alternative modes of transport rather than solo car use.  I am a senior member of staff with responsibility for a team of people in Bristol.  It is a busy and challenging role but equally rewarding. 

I am also the mother of two young children - Harry aged 8 and Emily aged 4.  Every morning, before going to work, my husband and I have to get both kids washed, dressed, breakfasted and dropped off at school and nursery on time.  All whilst getting ourselves ready as well!  And then in the evening, we have to be back to school and nursery to pick them up before any late collection fees kick in and then it's back home in order to organise dinner etc.  On top of this, we need to find time to deal with all the other admin that comes from having kids - paying fees for nursery, breakfast club, after school club, school trips etc., making sure they have clean clothes that fit, shopping and cooking so they (and we) are fed and so on.  And we try to make sure there is time left over to actually play with the children!  It is tough trying to juggle a professional career and raise a family, but there are lots of us who make it work successfully.  An understanding of how organisation, flexibility within the workplace and compromises are needed has been key to successfully juggling work and family life.

This is where The Association of Women in Property South West Branch's Networking Mums group can help.  We meet for lunch every other month in order to share our experiences of balancing family and work.  It is a great forum for mums on maternity leave to discuss their thoughts and concerns about returning to work and expectant mums can gain an insight into the amazing, but at times challenging 'world' they are about to enter.  It really is open to anyone who wants to have a chat or learn more about what it is like to be a working mum.  It is also really useful to understand what others are facing or have faced with similar challenges, and how they have come through them.  There are no formal speakers or presentations, it is more of a sub-network for people with similar experiences. 

Whilst I am currently responsible for organising and coordinating these lunches, the initiative was started by Laura Fuller of Burges Salmon who comments:

"I started this initiative when I was returning to work after the birth of my first child three and half years ago. For me personally, it is always immensely helpful to hear about other people's experiences, including from those who are some years ahead of me on the family path, and to know that you are not alone. Childcare isn't just a balancing act in the first few years but remains so for a long time, so understanding all the different types of working options out there and the choices people have made to make their lives work from both a family and career perspective has been immensely valuable. I hope Networking Mums will continue to be a valuable support network to the many other families out there striving to make that balance work for them."

By holding the informal Networking Mums Group at lunchtime, the hope is that all working mums, with children of any age, can attend from time to time without affecting their childcare arrangements.  If you have previously attended a Networking Mums Lunch, I hope to see you at another event soon.  If you have not attended before, perhaps not realising that you were eligible, please do come along to the next event. 

The next lunch in Bristol will be at the Watershed Café on Thursday 26th January 2017.  The lunch is open to both members and non-members.  Your children are also welcome.  There is no obligation to stay for any specific length of time and lunch is not compulsory - you could just come for a drink.  Please contact me, louise.gill@curtins.com, if you are intending to come along to a lunch or if you would like any further information.

Alternatively, please contact Natalie Barham, nlb@gardandco.com, if you would prefer to attend the Networking Mum's Lunches held in the Devon and Cornwall region.

West of England Devolution Deal - Don't be left in the dark, What Opportunities does it bring?

Main Image

Natasha Cottell, Business Development Manager, Wates

WiP South West Branch Chairman

The Association of Women in Property and the Forum for the Built Environment  recently jointly hosted over 100 hundred property professionals at an event to discuss the upcoming West of England Devolution deal, held at and sponsored by Burges Salmon. First announced in the March 2016 budget and signed on the 14th November by Bristol, Bath & North East Somerset and South Gloucestershire councils, the devolution deal will bring an impressive £1,004 per head of investment to the region - the best £/head deal agreed so far.

Key note speakers included Steve Evans, the Senior Responsible Officer for Planning, Housing and Transport in the WoE devolution deal, who argued this opportunity gives the region "a real seat at the table". Infrastructure demands will need to be addressed in order to secure investment to the region in a way which takes business and public opinion with it, if we are to meet the challenges and opportunities which growth presents.

He highlighted the need to learn from the challenges presented by the construction of MetroBus in the area if we are to gain public support for the scale of infrastructure investment needed particularly to tackle the growing problem of congestion. All parties agreed there is a real need to accelerate delivery of housing and to engage and engender public support in order to provide the additional homes the region needs to provide.

The skills shortage within the construction sector particularly was also identified as a problem which needs to be addressed with the additional powers and funding that the devolution deal will provide, particularly within the Adult Education Budget to be controlled locally from 2018/19. As explained by Adam Powell, Director of Skills from the West of England LEP, construction workforce requirements are predicted to grow nationally by 14.4% in the next 10 years - not just through increased workforce demand but also through replacement demand through an ageing workforce soon to enter retirement.

Focus will include an aim to improve equality and diversity in the sector - currently women account for a shockingly-low 7% of full-time construction industry workers, and when you look to the skills of the next generation, it is an even lower number - currently only 2% of apprentices across the West of England are women. This is something that needs to be addressed in order to improve the diversity of our workforce and help plug the skills gap. As well as diversity, the number of apprentices needs to grow significantly - a recent West of England LEP Skills Survey suggested that surprisingly only 29% of local construction companies employ apprentices. Through the devolution deal, a new local Apprenticeship Grant for Employers scheme offers grants of up to £2,500 to help small businesses in the sector meet apprenticeship recruitment costs with a view to raising this proportion. Aiming to encourage women as well as the younger generation as a whole to consider the variety of roles on offer within the construction industry will be an opportunity available through the devolution deal in order to tackle the skills gap - something which both WiP and the FBE are keen to support.

As summarised by Richard Bonner, UK Cities Director for Arcadis, the devolution deal is "an opportunity to genuinely improve the quality of life for future generations" and the general consensus from this session was that although there is a mountain to climb, there are also a huge number of opportunities here and with the wealth of talent we have within construction in the West of England coupled with a collaborative approach, there is surely a very real possibility of making a big difference to this industry if we open up to the upcoming devolution deal.

As a result of the discussion, Clive Woodford, FBE Great Western Chairman and myself, as South West Women in Property Chairman have agreed a feedback paper will be drafted and provided to the West of England Local Enterprise Partnership, suggesting recommendations on how to implement solutions to the areas of concern identified."

Does the housing industry need more “nasty women”?

Main Image

Anna Sabine-Newlyn is Chief Executive at Meeting Place Communications

It's a sad reflection of the housing industry in 2016 that the very fact of an all-female panel is worthy of comment.  Recently I was lucky enough to be on one (at the NHF London conference) and not only was it noted by the audience, it got several further mentions by others throughout the day.  An all-female panel!  A rare sight to behold…

The housing sector is growing ever more diverse, in terms of gender (and ethnicities), and it has long been a problem that what is reflected back at us - from panels, membership organisations and the media - is not representative of this.  In fact, I think it is something many of us have come to reluctantly take for granted.

It is always interesting to understand the different views on this question.  I have challenged staff at several events and organisations whose panels or materials are male dominated, and had two distinct responses.  The first is "Yes, it's a real issue, we are really trying to address it."  The second goes something along the lines of "We put people on panels because they're suitable, not because of their gender."  The former I have more sympathy for, but I still query whether well-meaning organisations are doing enough.  I find it hard to imagine there is a topic in UK housing where it wouldn't be possible to find a woman (or someone from a BME community) with some degree of expertise if you really tried hard enough. 

The latter response just leaves me (perhaps naively) open mouthed in amazement.  No one would suggest a panel member, or someone being sought for expert opinion in the press, should be chosen if they don't know what they're talking about.  But representation is self-perpetuating.  For example, the more women attend events, read the industry press, and see only male faces and views reflected back at them the more intimidating it is to put themselves forward for these things.  

In other areas of life this is being addressed.  The Parliament Project is a growing a campaign to encourage women to run for office in the UK, and at the moment is encouraging men and women to send e-postcards to women they know to encourage them to stand for office - recognising that self-belief is a large part of what holds women back. The Women's Room was set up in protest at the lack of female voices in the media - women with expertise in any field can register at TWR and when the media are looking for spokespeople, they have a ready-made database of female voices.

The housing industry has lots of great female groups, like Women in Property, which mainly exist as a chance to network and are undoubtedly helpful with women's careers.  But I wonder whether, on the issue of getting women to progress more visibly in the industry, it's time to focus on a more campaigning approach as well.  Perhaps, like Hillary Clinton's legions of female fans, we need a "nasty women" moniker - we need to actively challenge some of the approaches of colleagues and organisations in the industry and not be scared that if we do so, we will be labelled as 'difficult'. 

If we can't get ourselves organised in this way, then we shouldn't be surprised when all female panels remain as elusive as ever.

Pride Road: A Game Changer for Women in Architecture

Main Image

Lisa Raynes is a chartered architect, founder of architectural franchise Pride Road.

Past chairman of Women in Property North West.

How can anyone make a real difference for women in architecture, a profession overwhelmingly dominated by white males? I have been asking myself this question for the last five years, while running Raynes Architecture - my own practice in South Manchester. Today I know the answer. I know how female architects can be happy at their jobs again, proud of their hard won skills, earn stable income and still have plenty of time for their families. I set up Pride Road in order to share this knowledge.

I am a chartered architect with 19 years of professional experience across both residential and commercial sectors. Once I had my first child I wanted to work part time. Five years later, when I had my third child, the industry crashed and I was made redundant. Faced with unemployment and a young family to support I decided to set up my own practice.

I set up Raynes Architecture 5 years ago, during the recession. I discovered that the domestic sector is perfect for getting my work-life balance just right: jobs are predictable and easy to manage once you have the right systems in place. I quickly found out that my passion and technical skills were not enough to make me a successful business person. They are necessary, but what you really need are the right business systems, managing client's expectations and the right marketing strategy. I found a perfect niche for my business: domestic residential market, relatively small budget contracts worth 30 - 150 thousand pounds. Small scale work is more predictable and a bad debt is not going to bankrupt you. I have learned by experience - I mean by mistakes! - how to simplify the whole process, manage expectations and distil every job into four stages: a concept design workshop, planning, building and a tender.

At the same time I was Chairman of Women in Property North West and could see a huge number of women leaving the industry. On entering the architecture school, there is 50/50 split across genders but once you get into practice, the numbers fall to 20-30% of all architects being women. We fall prey to economic cycles far more than men and once we decide to have a family, we quite often "fall off the cliff" altogether. But I had a new, perfect business model to cope with family life and I wanted to share it. 

Setting up a franchise has been a huge learning curve, requiring a new set of specific skills and help from professionals. My first pilot franchisee already operates in Liverpool; I'm looking for two more people ready to pilot the business in new territories. I strongly believe Pride Road is a game changer for women in architecture and a whole new road (sic!) forward. 

Careers advice in front of the camera

Main Image

Rachel Bell is Divisional Director, Head of Business Development, for Stride Treglown

Throughout my ten years as a member of WiP, I have been particularly motivated by encouraging the younger generation to find out about the numerous careers on offer in the construction industry. Although we had very supportive careers advice at school the teachers themselves weren't equipped to give specific details on architectural careers, or which routes to take in order to get on to the career ladder. I had been told that the college course I selected was not going to provide the opportunity to get into university. I was determined to pursue the BTEC in construction and it certainly didn't preclude me from university courses when the time came. With further support today from industry leaders and links into schools we can help to provide as much current information as possible on careers and the required skills.

Over the last five years I have taken on the roadshow role on the South West committee along with introducing the South West eco homes competition for Year Nine students. It is really inspiring to hear feedback from WiP members when they say this is an aspect of the Association they find most rewarding.

So it didn't take much persuasion when I was asked to be interviewed for a National Careers Service video, which would aim to inspire young women in seeking out various careers and to challenge gender stereotypes. However, after saying yes, I was rather overcome with nerves and totally out of my comfort zone. I was going to be filmed whilst being asked a series of questions and they wanted to do this out on a construction site. Perfect, I thought, we had a large project at the University of West of England (UWE) which could be used, as the concrete frame was nearing completion.

A week before the filming I was issued with the list of questions I was going to be asked and some of them were particularly challenging. "What woman inspires you and why? What is the best and worst decision you've ever made? What do you think is the most significant barrier to female leadership? What will be the biggest challenge for the generation of women behind you? What advice would you give to young women who want to succeed in the workplace? After all this success, what do you struggle with now and do you still feel you have more to achieve?"

I certainly was most grateful to have help from my WiP mentor, Rebecca Tregarthen for her advice on how to approach the questions and filming overall, along with views and opinions from colleagues at Stride Treglown. I was one of four or five people being filmed, all being asked the same questions but we were all representing different careers.

The filming day came and, needless to say, the weather was particularly unkind - very atmospheric! Rob from the production company, Boomsatsuma, had never been on a construction site before so after our site briefing with Martin from ISG, the main contractor, we equipped ourselves in the appropriate PPE and headed out. The wind was howling, the rain was pouring and here we were trying to encourage women to look at careers in construction - what wasn't to like!  Climbing up to the higher floors, carrying the film equipment in driving wind and rain was challenging enough, let along trying to keep the lens free from rain and steaming up, while also ensuring I was heard above the elements and the noise from the live site.

I had prepared answers to each of the question but running through them live on camera was a whole new experience. It only took a couple of takes and I am sure each time I answered slightly differently. Rob was particularly encouraging and felt that, overall, it was working very well.

On seeing the finished film, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AgzHYBsJ7xs , I hope everyone agrees that, if we can all provide some of our precious time to help to pass on information and enthusiasm to the younger generation, we will start to improve attitudes and challenge the gender stereotypes.  

A short 430km from Bristol to Paris

Main Image

Natalia, Naomi and Ros

Thrings LLP and WiP South West Committee members

Most of us had never considered taking part in an endurance cycling event before now, but when we were asked by the fundraising manager at Above & Beyond in Bristol if we would be interested in cycling from Bristol to Paris, the adventurous side took over and we signed up straight away! 

Our four day challenge begins on 29th April and will take us through Bristol, Salisbury, Portsmouth, Caen, Evreux to finally finish by the Eiffel Tower in Paris. 

We have trained really hard both individually and as a team spending numerous Saturdays and Sundays together on long rides stretching through long dark winter months.  We have trained through hail, torrential rain and cold conditions to try to ensure we are ready for the big day on 29 April. We've also taken part in a couple of sportives (organised long distance rides) along the way to improve stamina.   

We all have different strengths and by working together we have come to appreciate each other's strengths as well as understanding where each of us struggle to recognise when we need to lift each other's spirits.   As we all work closely together at work it's been great fun getting to know each other outside of work and bonding over shared experiences of which type of padded shorts or jerseys works the best!  It has been a great team building exercise for us. 

Our motivation stems from the amazing work that Above & Beyond charity do in the South West.  They help Bristol hospitals sitting within the Bristol NHS Hospitals Trust by providing support, equipment and care facilities to visibly change the face of Bristol hospitals for the next generation.  The ride from Bristol to Paris is specifically to procure a new 3D heart ultrasound scanner for Bristol Children's Hospital to help children like Joe. Joe is aged 11 and was diagnosed with a congenital heart condition from birth, and had a heart bypass aged only four and will need hospital treatment for the rest of his life.   So far our team has raised over £23,000, and the event as a whole has raised over £150,000. 

We will be joining 77 other cyclists from Bristol's business community.  The Bristol business community has provided us with great opportunities throughout our careers here and it is great to give  something back to Bristol and the South West.

We are proud to be part of it, excited to get to the start line and looking forward to hearing how our hard work has paid off!

We would like to thank Women in Property and especially the South West committee for their support and encouragement over the past few months.

If you would like to sponsor the team please click here:  https://bristoltoparis2016.everydayhero.com/uk/team-thrings

 

 

Taking the work out of networking

Main Image

Vicki Freestone, Associate Director, Turley Leeds

I launched Networking Mamas in 2015 for WiP in Yorkshire, having heard about the very successful initiative started by Laura Fuller in the South West branch and following my own experience of returning to work in property following the birth of my daughter in 2012.  An enthusiastic networker and long-time WiP member, on returning to work I was keen to pick up where I'd left off - reacquainting myself with clients and contacts and exploring new business opportunities.

Whilst the world of property was still recognisable, my own world had changed a great deal!  Working a four day week and dashing out of the door to do nursery pick up meant that evening networking, something I hadn't previously thought twice about, presented all sorts of logistical challenges.  Even if I could find cover for the nursery run, I was sometimes simply too exhausted to socialise.

I quickly discovered that I needed to be a lot more selective about the events that I attended, favouring breakfasts and lunchtimes, and ensuring that the networks really worked for me.  I embraced social media, fitting in tweets and updates around my commute and lunch breaks.

So far so good, but something was niggling me.  None of these networks truly recognised or helped to address the challenges that working parents face, particularly those expecting children, on or newly returning from parental leave.  These can include a drop in confidence, concerns about career progression or simply coming to terms with rebalancing priorities and values.  I decided to do something about this.

The first WiP Networking Mamas lunch was held in March 2015 at Carluccio's in Leeds City Centre.  From the start, the network has been phenomenally successful with up to 20 attendees not including the bumps, new-borns and toddlers!  Held every four months, the lunches provide a relaxed opportunity for parents to share their experiences of work and family life.  Marina Kirkpatrick, Principal Consultant at Advisian is a regular attendee and comments that she "really values professional female company in a relaxed environment where we can give each other a well-deserved pat on the back and walk away with our heads held high in tribute to our achievements as women both at work and at home".

I believe that the popularity of the network is down to its uniqueness and shows how WiP is ideally placed to support women in all stages of their careers, from the Student Awards to the mid-career taskforce and championing women on boards.  Indeed, many of the group's career paths have mirrored my own - we networked together a decade ago and are now senior women in the industry.

If you would like to attend the next Networking Mamas lunch in Leeds on Wednesday 11 May 2016, you can find out more here.

Valuable experience for the Board

Main Image

Lisa Jane Risk, WiP National Chairman

Director of Group Property, Towergate Insurance

March is a milestone in the WiP year.  This is when we welcome our new branch chairmen and committees, those members who work so hard to deliver the events, CPD workshops, education programme and networks, for which WiP is renowned.   WiP committees work for the members. They are all volunteers, with full time jobs working in the property and construction industry. And working on a WiP committee can be a secret weapon in career development.

While WiP has a national Executive and Steering Group, that guide the branches and agree the 'macro', each branch committee has the autonomy to organise the 'micro'.  They calculate their own budgets, appoint their own officers, organise their own events, and invite their own speakers.  In other words, they behave much like the board of any business.

This is a great advantage for committee members and one we probably don't talk about enough.   The branch Chairman is supported by her team, which includes Vice Chairman, Treasurer, Membership officer, Events coordinator, website and PR officers, Education lead, Mentoring coordinator and Student Awards tsarina, as well as 'regular' committee members. Together, they not only represent their branch members but, critically, have responsibility to them, ensuring that funds - members' money - are spent wisely and appropriately. 

Committee meetings are held on a monthly basis, minuted and forwarded to the national executive.  Decisions are taken, budgets agreed, actions apportioned and delegated.  The branch Chairmen and Vice Chairmen attend our quarterly National Steering Group meetings, to report on branch progress, exchange ideas and help take decisions on WiP business at national and regional level.  Former branch Chairmen often go on to take the National Chairman role, which is a superb opportunity to raise her professional and personal profile and really make an impact on the organisation as a whole.  I did just that, becoming National Chairman last year, following branch roles as Chairman, Student Tsarina and National Roadshow Co-ordinator.   Recently I was delighted to welcome members and guests to the launch of a new satellite branch, for the Solent area, under the South West branch banner, just one of the many events and meetings I attend events across the country, giving me the opportunity to meet other WiP members.

Anyone sitting on one of our committees will experience what it is like to sit on a Board but with the advantage of doing so in a friendly, supportive environment.  In the majority of cases, this will be a first time for committee members and a valuable learning experience for them, one it can and should maximise for their own professional development.

There are also the associated benefits, although not exclusive to committee members.  Employers are welcome to host WiP events, giving them additional profile and members are representing their employers at events.  We invite members to contribute to our newsletters and to our blog pages, an invitation we extend to employers too.   Opportunities come up in the local and national media and, whenever possible, we will approach a member to comment, particularly if she is supporting WiP on a committee.  Support works both ways. 

So, I would encourage all members to consider joining their local committee at some stage. Alternatively, think about getting involved in a voluntary, non-executive capacity with a not-for-profit organisation, housing association or charity.  The breadth and depth of your professional expertise, combined with the experience gained on the board, will undoubtedly enhance your career while allowing you to give something back.

Get to know the new WiP branch Chairman and committee in your area by visiting the Branch pages /branches.aspx

‘Age of housebuilding’ will demand a million more construction workers in the UK by 2020

Main Image

Owen Goodhead, Managing Director of Randstad Construction, Property & Engineering

"We recently undertook new analysis, which indicated that a million extra workers will need to join the house building industry if the country is to build new homes at the necessary rate.  By 2020 the UK will need a total of 1.98 million housebuilding workers - to build the necessary 300,000 homes per year. This means the creation of over a million new construction jobs by the end of the decade. 

The housing crisis is a skills crisis too.  If expecting an ambitious output, Britain needs to be ambitious about employment. Despite various speeches being made on this topic, the targets remain seemingly out of reach. We need to think beyond the 'what', the 'where' and the 'when' and instead look into who will be building enough homes.

Doubling the rate of house building will mean at least doubling the workforce involved too. That means a practical challenge for workers as much as it is a conceptual issue for politicians. Employers will need to prepare as carefully as planning departments, and we need to lay the foundations of a skilled workforce as much as we need foundations in concrete.

Our research has found that skilled trades will be particularly vital - requiring the creation of 27,000 bricklayer jobs, 89,000 plumbers jobs and 100,000 carpenter jobs. Moreover, hitting housebuilding targets will also demand large numbers of more office-based workers. This could result in 13,000 jobs for planners, 28,000 architect jobs, 30,000 quantity surveyor jobs and 61,000 project manager jobs.

Ageing workers also add further pressure on the need for new recruitment. Currently, 19% of housebuilding workers are aged 56 or over, with 4% of these actively considering retirement. At the other end of the spectrum, 28% of workers are between 26 and 35 years old and just 7% of house building workers are aged between 16 and 24.

Another challenge facing the industry is encouraging young people to enter the industry. Almost one in three construction workers currently involved in housebuilding (32%) say there is a prejudice against the construction industry as a career path emanating from parents, teachers and careers advisers.

Gender prejudice also remains an issue. Across the construction industry women make up one in five workers, which is mirrored in the house building industry more specifically, with women filling 20% of roles in 2015. However if the UK is to hit the necessary output of 300,000 homes per year then this does provide a theoretical opportunity to level the gender balance in UK house building.

In order to fill the need for homes in the UK, we need to address the skills gap. This needs to start with a reform in our education system making the construction industry more appealing to younger minds and all backgrounds."

Read more on Randstad's analysis of the skills gap crisis in the housing industry:https://www.randstad.co.uk/cpe/age-of-housebuilding/

 

Planning to stop homelessness

Main Image

Lauren Thompson, Senior Planner, WYG

Homelessness is a really big issue that can affect anyone at any time.  Most of us will probably know at least one person touched by this.  In my case, I remember my Dad having his house repossessed in the 1990s - he had to sofa surf at the age of 47.  Luckily, he had friends and family to turn to but not everyone is so lucky.

Shelter's Policy blogger considers that the homelessness statistics from the Department of Communities and Local Government reveal just how broken the housing market has become.  The Shelter blogger makes a direct link between homelessness and planning.  As a planner, my view has always been that the link between planning and homelessness is indirect (when compared to, say, social services as an example), which made the blogger's comments striking and thought provoking.

Steve Fidgett, Head of Planning at WYG, delivered a presentation at the Royal Town Planning Institute housing seminar highlighting the significant problems facing the housing market, which gave further weight to the blogger's comments.  The salient points from Mr Fidgett's presentation were that we are building fewer homes in the UK today than at almost any other time.  This has resulted in first time buyers being squeezed out, which has placed pressure on both the private rented sector and affordable housing.  The RTPI's housing seminar and Steve's comments were particularly well timed, given that they were made a few days before the Conservative Party Conference came to Manchester in October; housing was a hot topic in the Prime Minister's speech. 

David Cameron called for a 'national crusade to get homes built' and announced the Government's plans to widen the definition of affordable housing to place more focus on affordable housing available to buy and to introduce a single-stage approval process to bolster housing supply.

From a commercial perspective, whilst WYG has a proven track record in obtaining permission for housing quickly, many house builders remain frustrated by the timescales it can often take to gain planning permission which is an important part of the process of building housing.  If these changes gain traction they are very welcome, but local authority buy-in is crucial given that they are often in control of the timescales for determining applications and for dictating the type of affordable housing on qualifying sites. 

History is often our harshest critic and it will be interesting to see if these bold changes trickle down quickly enough to make a difference to those who suffer most acutely from housing need.

If you want something doing big, do it in Doha

Main Image

Ravinder Kaur, DTZ Qatar

I guess that this is definitely the impression I feel I'm making being one of the very few females in the commercial real estate market here. And whilst much has changed within the UK over the recent years, women still currently only represent 15% of the property and construction industry.

"So how are you finding it?" I have been asked many a time. Actually fine. It depends on the nature of your personality. I've learnt to be quite bullish in my work environment due to working within an industry and investment teams previously that are predominantly male. Although it really does take some getting used to; only the other day a male with whom I was to have a meeting was reluctant to shake my hand. The concept of women working in the professional environment in Qatar is relatively new and for some completely unfamiliar. I can say however that it isn't all bad. I had a meeting with a CEO of a large real estate firm today here in Doha; he shook my hand firmly and conversed with me regarding the project more than he did with my male colleague here at DTZ Qatar.

When working in a Middle Eastern country, it is only natural to respect the dress code. Modesty is key, but it is also flexible. Dressing modestly not only gives you face, but allows for you to feel a lot more comfortable during meetings with people and companies from the Middle Eastern vicinity. It's not as scary as the internet makes out (trust me) - I tend to wear a long shirt or top covering my shoulders with a long pencil skirt, or trousers and if I'm being honest my working wardrobe has not changed much from working in London. That being said, the women I have seen in my office building wear a pair of Valentino's with a Lady Dior to work with at least two hours' worth of make-up. Credit to them because I don't know how they find the effort!

I've had the pleasure of meeting Qatari women who are extremely successful in their careers, but I can only feel that a larger change is yet to come. Only  0.1%  of Qatar's Parliament is represented by women!

In alignment with  Qatar's 2030 National Vision, women's advancement and development need to be supported for the benefit of cross-border investment. Something I know that Qatar is striving for given the need for additional revenue streams to the oil and gas market.

Qatar Women's Professional Network (QWPN)  is a great way that this notion is being pushed and I envisage getting involved with seminars and discussions at the QWPN over the coming months!

Some women are lost in the fire. Some are built from it.

Housing (Wales) Act 2014

Main Image

Mandy St John Davey, Vice Chairman WiP South Wales Branch

Hello, please let me introduce myself, I'm the current vice-chairman of the South Wales Branch, my name is Mandy St John Davey and I am a professional property investor and an accredited landlord.  I've been investing in property for the past 16 years and during that time I have seen lots of changes within the private rental sector.

Earlier this year I wrote about The Renting Homes Bill that was launched by Lesley Griffiths AM, Communities Minister, of Welsh Assembly Government, http://www.mandystjohndavey.com/bbc-wales-interview/ but there are more changes ahead for Landlords and Letting Agents.

Did you know that new rules come into force in Wales this autumn requiring anyone who owns and rents out a property in the country to be licensed and registered?

You don't have to live in Wales to be affected by this new law.  If you have a property in Wales which you receive rent for this will affect you.

The new landlord and agent registration and licensing scheme - the first of its kind in the UK - is designed to raise standards in the sector in Wales where it's estimated one in seven residents rent privately. The Welsh Government believes this affects about 184,000 properties.

It's hoped the rules will make life difficult for rogue landlords, reduce the risk of poor living conditions and ensure more security and clarity for tenants.

So here's what you need to do

If you haven't already completed Landlord Accreditation Wales training, you can still complete this now.  When the new Act is introduced it will be to your advantage that you have completed the training as you will have little extra to do to obtain a licence.

Landlords and agents will be granted a year from introduction of the scheme to comply with its new requirements, by autumn 2016.  After this time, landlords and agents found to be operating outside the system will be penalised by the local Council. 

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION please follow this link www.rentsmart.gov.wales

If you would like to keep in touch with me you can find my here where I regularly post updates

www.mandystjohndavey.com

https://www.journalism.co.uk/press-releases/are-you-a-landlord-with-properties-in-wales-you-need-to-know-this-/s66/a566396/

Does your business reflect the society we live in?

Main Image

Elspeth Burrage,  National Chairman of the Association of Women in Property and Associate Director, Head of Events EMEA at DTZ

I had a feeling of déjà vu when I read Joanna Bourke's article in The Independent (25thAugust "Why property firms still need to build diversity in the workplace" - see link below). She was reporting survey results from Architects' Journal and Construction News that found that "…85 per cent of gay men and women in the construction industry have encountered homophobic comments in the workplace in the past year." The figure for the property sector was 65 per cent, so not much better.

The déjà vu stems from anecdotes and conversations on a similar theme, held with women in the industry, over very many years. The sexist comments, the frustrations of being side-lined from promotion, the assumptions based on stereotypes. Some of this we now call Unconscious Bias, some we call plain ignorant.

Thankfully for women, things do seem to be changing as the realisation that diversity is indeed a good thing, spreads through the industry. As an organisation, the Association of Women in Property has been shouting about this for over 28 years but I think it is probably just in the last two or three that people really have started to sit up and listen. This seems to be reflected in what LGBT networking forum, Freehold, is experiencing, with growing support and recognition from some property businesses. But there is still a long way to go.

Women in Property is a great advocate of Property Week magazine's Open Plan campaign to raise awareness to the issues of diversity; to date they have carried features on LGBT, ethnic minorities, women, socio-demographic groups and education. We have been pleased to contribute a number of comment pieces and case studies for the Open Plan pages. There is a genuine move towards addressing diversity in all its guises, with a 'ten point' Charter launched, to which property and construction companies are encouraged to sign up, pledging to challenge their own habits and make a difference.

My own firm, DTZ, established the Curzon Group almost two years ago, again challenging diversity and what we think we know about our business. We recently undertook research which revealed that 58% of our employees are male and 42% female. The majority of our employees had a state school education, 92.5% of the respondents are white, 94.3% heterosexual and 1.4% disabled. As Colin Wilson, DTZ's head of UK & Ireland said, "The fact that we how now conducted our first diversity survey is almost as important as the results themselves. I want our business to constantly challenge the historic diversity issues that have affected our industry."

We know we have a way to go but how can we improve unless we understand where we need to focus our efforts? Hence, for some time now DTZ has been working with Women in Property, we are pleased that Stonewall recognises us as a diversity champion and we are exploring links with education, all to encourage a more balanced social and ethnic mix.

In my position as an employee of DTZ and my role as National Chairman of Women in Property, I call upon the wider industry to take a look at its own practices and attract people from so-called minority backgrounds. The benefits go way beyond a feel good factor for your business.

( http://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/analysis-and-features/why-property-firms-still-need-to-build-diversity-in-the-workplace-10471999.html?origin=internalSearch)

 

Networking to Succeed

Main Image

Polly Plunket-Checkemian, Partner EMEA Head of Research & Insight, Cushman & Wakefield

Career success is never a solo endeavour. It is our network - a support structure of personal contacts who will provide support, feedback, insight, resources, and information - that catalyses our chance of success. Networking is not a talent; nor does it require the 'right' personality. It is a skill and one that benefits from practice.

In recent years, we have become comfortable seeking out mentors, and become increasingly aware of the importance of sponsors. Mentors are vital. They can see and put into words for you what you may not see about yourself or be able to articulate. A well-chosen mentor will also know the lay of the land in your firm and help you learn to navigate the corporate ladder.

In Forget a Mentor, Find a Sponsor, Sylvia Ann Newlett so ably describes that if mentors help define the dream, sponsors are the dream-enablers. Sponsors deliver: They make you visible to leaders within the company - and to top people outside as well. They connect you to career opportunities and don't stop with one promotion: They'll see you all the way through.In short, mentors advise; sponsors act.

But this isn't the sum total of networking. A successful network has three distinct but interdependent forms of networking-operational, personal,  and  strategic -each plays a vital role in your career. The first helps you manage current internal responsibilities, the second boosts your personal development, and the third opens your eyes to new business directions and the stakeholders you may need to get there. 

Operational networking comes naturally to us all. Determined in large part by routine, short-term demands, we pick up quickly on who can help or hinder our ability to do our job, ease promotion or pay issues. But nearly everyone has blind spots here, because we invest the time in friends in the workplace, rather than a true network which reflects the future needs of our career.

Some are naturally strong at personal networking. Finding people, outside of our usual circles, with whom we share common ground. These include professional associations such as Women in Property, alumni groups, clubs and personal interest communities. Whilst their value is in bringing new perspectives, there's no guarantee that you will connect with someone who can help you at some point in the future.

Making the transition to top jobs needs two things. First understanding broader strategic issues - or where one's own contribution fits into the bigger picture. We succeed when we move from focusing on technical objectives to help the wider business succeed. Second, we need the ability to figure out where to go and to enlist the people and groups necessary to get there. Strategic networking plugs you into a set of relationships and information sources that collectively embody the power to achieve personal and organisation goals.

And yet many drop strategic networking (fearing the time and energy it seems to require) precisely when it is needed the most. There can appear to be no natural 'excuse' for making contact with senior people. We are more attracted to the obvious payoff of a task accomplished, rather than the ambiguous, often delayed rewards of networking. Some simply hate asking for help. The less we practice networking, the less efficient we become.

Last year, Zella King and Amanda Scott published Who is in your Personal Boardroom?It is, by far, the most useful analysis of strategic networking that is out there and demonstrates a real understanding of what works for women.

The Personal Boardroom helps you distil hundreds of contacts and connections into six to 12 great people who are happy to give honest, effective advice on your future. It recognises that strategic networking brings different people, not just with different perspectives, but with clearly defined roles to participate in your network. King and Scott characterise them into three different requirements:

Information roles that provide access to knowledge, insights, perspectives and ideas you would not otherwise have. Power roles that enable you to reach people and opportunities you would not otherwise be able to access, and to get things done. Development roles that give you the self-knowledge to be better at what you do, and to come across at your most powerful to others. Broken down further into 12 areas, all of which are utterly understandable and achievable, you gain powerful insight into your blind spots, and see how to fix them. You will recognise your sponsors and mentors within the 12 areas, but you'll understand why they are important to you, and what you can do to prevent over-reliance.

It is said many times in business that "You're only as good as who you surround yourself with". King and Scott's work makes sure that every minute you put into networking counts.

 

Talking about Thinking

Main Image

Marcelle Newbold, Architect at Purcell's Cardiff studio and Chairman, South Wales branch, Association of Women in Property

As soon as I was voted in as Chairman of the WiP South Wales branch, people asked what I am looking forward to and hoping to achieve. My answer, after some deliberating, depended on the context (I am an architect after all!). At committee meetings, with a committee of 19 individuals, some consensus would be a great start!. An ex colleague wished me luck on my appointment and said that,, 'as a strong and confident personality', I would be fine. The problem, or blessing, is that all of the committee fit that description!

On a more serious note, my aim for WiPs presence in Wales is to provide a platform for thinking rather than just doing. We, as WiP South Wales, already provide a diverse range of events to help members and non-members alike, to gain CPD points and meet other professionals at formal and informal networking events. We run schemes to support students still at school and university, mid-career professionals bumping their heads against glass ceilings and more senior members to have a voice and progress with their careers. In this climate, especially so in the construction and property industries, everyone is working to 110% capacity with just 'doing'. So, my aim is to get professionals thinking. Thinking and then talking about the mid career drop off of women in property and construction, whether in house teams should reflect the diversity of the client team and the skills we want our leaders to have. Thinking takes time, opportunity and breathing space - not noted for  fitting well with charge codes. 

Everyone is busy, but is just doing enough? Should we not be improving, making better, even in a small way the things we do? As a designer, everything I do I try to improve (yes annoying); when thinking about WiP, this takes the form of how we communicate, the links to other professional groups we have and focussing on providing a platform for talking about thinking.  Recently I have been in discussion with Design Commission for Wales (DCfW) and Constructing Excellence Wales (CEW) as well as Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS Wales) to forge these links and to promote 'thinking' about women in property and construction. Women have specific skills that should have a valued place at the meeting table and in the boardroom and aim to dispel some of the traditional viewpoints that have been barriers to women progressing in the industry. An 'old boys' network is fine but, in this climate, with a large proportion of professional clients and organisational heads being women, a reflection on the make-up of design teams and on influencing boards should be expected, not a surprise. Women do make up half the population after all!    

Thinking takes time, anyone can blindly do, but improvement comes with change, not necessarily with level of output. So my aim is to get talking about where thinking could get us.

Marcelle Newbold, Chair South Wales Branch, Women in Property

Architect, Purcell

@sketch_31 @WiPWales @Purcell @WiPUK