A revealing survey has shown that despite the recent downturn, women working within the North West's property industry remain ambitious and are positive about their futures in property.
See responses below
The anonymous survey, commissioned by the Association of Women in Property in conjunction with Place North West, was distributed to WiP members and Place readers in a bid to investigate how women working in the industry were handling their current environment.
The survey results are essential to assisting WiP to tailor its events and services to meet the needs of its members.
The results were predominantly positive, highlighting the drive and ambition of WiP members. Most of those surveyed were working towards career progression and saw a positive future in the industry although as expected, maternity leave and or raising a family was seen as the main barrier to progression.
Claire Beaumont, North West WiP branch chairman and associate partner at Layton's Solicitors, said: "This has been a fantastic opportunity to gain an insight into our members. By understanding what women in the industry want and their ambitions for the future we are able to arrange events, seminars and site visits to complement their needs.
"The survey responses are a great, uplifting and inspirational read from women who have overcome many challenges in their lives and remain resilient and determined to realise their ambitions.
"As a new mother whom has recently returned to work, reading that women find this a difficult period within their careers is unsettling and I have made it my aim for my chairmanship to ensure that the branch provides women with the support, connections and opportunities required to maintain a foothold in the industry whether on maternity leave or redundancy.
"I am pleased with the result and thank people for taking part and I looking forward to offering members an association which works for them to suit their interests, offer vital networking opportunities and helps women to pursue their goals."
The answers from a selection of 16 participants are shown below
What is the biggest obstacle you have overcome in your career?
Participant 1. I have experienced no obstacles
2. Perceptions of my ability to do my job effectively with a family. Also the expectations that if you work part time you still have to put 5 days work in to your part time hours.
3. Changing the perception that sales and marketing skills are not "fluffy" and that there is a genuine skill in identifying markets and customers and achieving revenue for the business.
4. Obtaining a training contract.
5. Lack of role clarity.
7. Qualifying into a recession
8. Overcoming other people's perceptions and my own at times, about what I might be capable of. Seeing men exhibiting the same behaviour or characteristics as me, but being deemed aggressive and negative amongst other things so having to find other ways to get my point across to counter their perceptions about women acting in a particular way.
9. The biggest obstacle I've overcome is dealing with a long-term illness (nothing to do with being a woman!) Fortunately I was able to continue in work and reduce my hours for a period of time so that although it probably slowed my progression at least I didn't go backwards.
10. The fact that if you try to assert yourself you are deemed to be 'difficult' or a 'bitch'; and if you aren't assertive enough you are deemed to be 'too soft' and not hard-nosed enough to be successful in this field. Also that trying to establish a position which challenges the populist view makes you very unpopular (although I don't think that's just confimed to this industry).
11. Lack of flexibility – raising children whilst progressing my career.
12. Not one I would want to disclose.
13. The biggest obstacle has been, without question, the inherent lack of self confidence and questioning of ability which seems to plague most women at some point in their career. "When a man reads a job description and feels he can do 20% of it he is confident he can do the job. A women who is confident she can do 80% of the job worries about the 20% she hasn't done before"
14. Sexism in the workplace.
15. Promotion and general support from management on decisions. – Long hours
16. Male dominance, resistance to strong opinionated women and the juggling of home/work pressures while raising a family.
What do you see as the barriers to progression?
1. The key barrier is childbirth and childcare, both of which result in time out and energy away from business goals unless you are super organised or have a house husband/child carer.
2. Working part time due to family commitments.
3. There are too few women positioned at main board level. However, I do have support from my own regional board.
4. Time. Maintaining a home and work life balance.
5. Limited importance placed on my type of role within the property industry.
7. A slowly recovering housing market
8. Not individual men some of whom have been extremely supportive (sometimes women were not, very surprisingly and shockingly!). BUT the culture that has been created by centuries of men-only workplaces where they know the 'rules', means that women are only just beginning to feel comfortable in these places (and probably some men to be honest) but most are put off or can't work within these boundaries due to other commitments. So we need to change the culture, get senior men & women to support and mentor women through the ranks so that they feel they CAN operate at a higher level, in a way that is comfortable and natural for them. THat they don't have to become the tough ball,-breaking types of women (who take on extreme male behaviour). A major factor is companies not supporting both MEN and women when they have children – it is a dual responsibility and it is a societal responbility (as we all came from a woman) to support families in every way possible. Not using women with children to their full capacity is wasting massive intellectual power of 50 % of the population – no wonder we are getting left behind in the world.
9. The biggest barriers are my own lack of confidence in my abilities and unwillingness to put myself in competition with others or in situations where I may be out of my depth. I think these traits are much more common in women, particularly in male dominated industries, but they are things we have to deal with ourselves on a personal level. Having said that I started out training as an architect, and though all the above played a part in my decision not to continue beyond RIBA Part I (I now work as a client side project manager), another factor was the ethos of the particular School of Architecture I was at, which was 'eat, sleep, breath architecture'; spending all 24 hours in the studio was positively encouraged and there was little respect for those (usually female) students who wanted a more balanced lifestyle. Generally in the workplace I feel that women suffer from some of the language and legislation around maternity rights. I feel very strongly that we need to start talking always about 'parental' rather than 'maternity/paternity' in order to recognise that parents have equal responsibility. Parental leave should be for a couple to split as they choose. I think the only thing stopping this is the breastfeeding lobby and the current situation does women no favours, whether they are or hope to be mothers or not.
10. There are very few role models who have worked their way from the bottom up rather than being blessed with coming from wealthy families or well-established property families. There are some high-profile females who do the rest of us in the industry no favours by being all style and no substance. Also the assumption that if you are of later child-bearing age (30s+) you are a risk in terms of recruitment.
11. Only lack of flexibility – although as my children are getting older this is getting easier.
12. Having a family and taking time out from the profession.
13. If you have the ability and are prepared to work hard there are, in theory, no barriers other than those related to personal choices around raising a family. In practice however if you find yourself in an organisation where appointments seem to be made on the basis of the "old boy network " (which is still alive and well) the glass ceiling can turn to concrete.
14. Sexist attitudes and the perceived weakness of combining a career with having a family.
15. – peers within companies – promotion from management – management assessing value of female staff – the concept of having a family
16. Archaic attitudes to pregnancy, lack of affordable childcare options during critical years (forcing many women to relinquish senior full-time positions).
What are your ambitions and do they include staying in the industry?
1. My current ambition is to retire with a decent income, after 25 years of running a consultancy practice.
2. I want to stay in the industry but the pressure of work and the ability to keep my family happy is ever increasing and I find it very hard to juggle both aspects of my life.
3. I have a goal to become Managing Director within 5 years – in this industry.
4. To progress through the firm and establish and nurture successful professional and client relationships.
5. My ambition is to improve my skills and become strategic in the business development of my practice. I get great job satisfaction from working within the property industry and have no plans to leave. My ambition is to become a recognised expert within the field of Marketing for Property and Construction.
6. No due to discrimination
7. My short term ambitions are to continue practising in residential property and to branch out into commercial
8. My ambitions are to be able to act at a senior level where it is not a constant battle to be heard, where I can be supported and developed but most importantly contribute and make a difference. In order to do this, it is most likely that I will have to continue to run my own organisation in some format or other.
9. In all honesty I've never had a clear career path in mind and recently I've scaled down any ambitions I might have had, mainly due to illness and the need to prioritise my long-term health. I still find the job challenging and rewarding in the right measure and I see myself staying in the industry, but probably not progressing any further.
10. I simply want to be recognised and valued for the job I do – gender should not even enter any kind of consideration of that. I am considering leaving the industry, partly due to the intense pressure of having to work harder/longer/achieve more to get recognition (which after 20 years has become quite wearing), but partly due to the lack of opportunities I see in this field in the current economic climate & the likely future jobs market.
11. Managing Director
12. Preference to run my own prop comp or achieve board status in a major prop company.
13. There is plenty of scope for innovative thinking and new ways of delivering. Recessions keep us on our toes and it's never boring, so yes I do plan to say in the industry and hope to be pass on my knowledge and empower others to make a difference.
14. To move out of surveying.
15. – making it to become Director and I to stay in the industry.
16. To be the best at what I do. And yes, the industry is my preferred sector – notwithstanding market predictions!
What advice would you give to a woman entering the industry?
1. Be prepared to encounter some 'neanderthals' and bullies at the sharp end of the business, but be mindful that they are now a minority. Prejudice is declining, and will probably die away naturally. Concentrate on being good at what you do and being super professional.
2. If you want children have them early and then get on with your career.
3. Be accurate, be tenacious and be fearless……
4. Nurture contacts within your pier group in the industry early in your career and maintian the relationship as your joint careers progress
5. Be interested in what you do. If you are passionate about the field you work in it naturally gains the respect of your colleagues and the wider property community.
6. Watch out for all the discrimination
7. Do not be shy! Men ask for what they want in the industry and that's why they continue to get it, women need to voice their ambitions, needs and wants. Do not mistake being a strong woman with being a woman with attitude, you can still get further with sugar than you can with vinegar.
8. Don't be put off too easily, be calm, collected and assertive (not aggressive!?). Most of the people you meet individually will be supportive and helpful, but what you will have to fight and understand is the culture that exists where men know how to be heard, to be promoted and self-promote brilliantly even when they're not that good and you are miles better. Don't give up and above all support other women – they are not a threat, they are your source of support too.
9. The balance is shifting and younger women are entering an industry that is less and less male dominated. The only advice I can give is to be professional. This will be obvious to most, and shouldn't (maybe doesn't) need saying, but you have to be consistent, i.e. don't play on being female in some situations if you expect it to be irrelevant in others. And don't sell yourself short!
10. It's a very macho world and they need to be tough-skinned and focused. Be prepared to work very long hours, often not get credit or get walked all over by other colleagues (especially the ambitious ones) and make the trade-off of work coming first over personal life. Network as much as possible and use that network to build up a positive reputation based on your actual work-output. Do as much professional improvement yourself as you can to ensure you are on top of the latest trends in all aspects of the industry.
11. Don't be threatened by male colleagues and don't play the "female card". It is possible to progress to Director level and have children – I have and as a single parent. It will be tough and expect to sacrifice your personal life for at least five years to get there.
12. Be true to your values and beliefs.
13. Get to know other women in the business. 95% of the guys are good and easy to get on with but there is an added element of support when you find a network of like minded women who can help each other. Gives you a brief insight into how much easier it must be for the football watching, golf playing and beer drinking men in our business
14. Be tough; ensure you have better qualifications than your male peers; never ending confidence and an unwavering belief in who and what you are and what you can achieve.
15. – find a good Line manager – move companies if you don't get what you want – don't be afraid to speak out if something doesn't feel right – always be top of the class – ensure you have done more than other male peers – Find a mentor at a senior level in-house within your company – Do as much networking as possible to support you educational, professionally and emotionally – don't be put off if male colleagues try to put you down.
16. Be true to yourself. Trust your instincts. Don't be afraid to forge your own path. Try to connect with other women who have been there before you.