Driving Diversity

Industry functions can sometimes look like a sea of suits. And while there are now more high-profile female CEOs, the number of women in executive roles in the industry is still small.

Yet the war for talent has never been fiercer. Those companies best able to secure, retain and nurture talent will continue to have a big head start. It makes no sense to cast your organisation’s net over only half the available talent pool.

There’s also plenty of research indicating that diversity is important for success. Groupthink and homogeneity don’t give a business a competitive edge.

The winning formula is a mix of talent, including gender.

If the business case is clear, just where does the industry sit? Well, the report card is in and it’s not pretty reading.

New landmark research by EY shines an uncomfortable spotlight on the property industry’s divided and disjointed approach to achieving gender diversity. Based on surveys of a wide range of businesses, EY found the industry was sitting well down the ‘smart curve’. When it comes to measuring the maturity of strategies on gender diversity and whether they are working, most property companies fell somewhere between ‘emerging awareness’ and ‘aware’. That’s a long way short of ‘leadership’ where diversity becomes a real source of competitive advantage.

The research indicates gender diversity programs are mainly compliance focused, rather than truly integrated, and less likely to deliver real business value.

Clearly, we have to work together as an industry to accelerate the change needed to increase the number of women in leadership roles and the pipeline of future women leaders. And we need to act fast to catch up on lost ground.

For some years now the Property Council has taken the issue of gender diversity very seriously.

In a male-dominated industry it is beholden on the Property Council to show leadership in this space. Half of the Property Council’s own executive team are women. We’ve created forums to bring women together, showcased leading women at our events and in our publications, and placed more women on Property Council committees to expand their networks and leadership opportunities. In the current election process we are targeting 30 per cent participation of women in our committees across the country.

We are also expanding our network of Women and Diversity in Property committees. Our NSW Division formed the first of these committees in 2012 and it has provided an exemplary model for the establishment of others across the country in 2015. WA recently formed its committee and Queensland and Victoria are currently in the process of establishing theirs.

At the Property Congress 2015 (to be held at Sheraton Mirage, Gold Coast, on 18–20 October) there will be a combined boardroom meeting of these groups, followed by a networking event to facilitate the sharing of insights and learnings.

In a new initiative, the Property Council is leading the formation of a Property Male Champions of Change group to tackle this issue and our industry’s leaders are committing to this important initiative. It is based on the existing Male Champions of Change run by the federal Sex Discrimination Commissioner.

The Property Male Champions of Change brings together male CEOs from the industry’s largest organisations to collectively challenge themselves to tackle the issue of women in leadership roles.

It will be convened by former Property Council national president Carol Schwartz AM.

We know the property industry embraces change regarding safety, technology and sustainability. Now we need to expand our focus to include gender diversity.

It’s a practical business strategy for a practical industry.