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A lot of research and discussion, have gone into the topic of gender diversity and the role of women in senior positions in companies. More often than not, most of the results pegged that companies with a higher percentage of women in leadership positions, tend to perform better than those with low women representation at senior positions, on a wide range of performance metrics.
The real estate industry, which has largely been male dominated with very few women in leadership positions, is slowly acknowledging this fact and is seeing a positive change. Not surprisingly though, as most of the large firms dealing with property are family-run businesses, the reins of the business were eventually passed on to the sons of the family. The construction business, because of the nature of the industry, with long hours on site, having to deal with contractors and workers, again became traditionally male-dominated. Consequently, the investment side also took a natural progression to being male-dominated.
Women’s participation in the real estate industry
Over the years, the Indian real estate sector has grown significantly. With the sector getting more organised, there has been increased international penetration into the Indian markets and increased service offerings. In this scenario, limiting the sector to only one segment of the population, also limits the available resources and talent base that is needed to take the sector forward. The expansion of companies and the need for talent, prompted the inclusion of more women into the sector.
See also: Women in real estate: ‘I did it my way’
Currently, while we do find that women feature strongly at the entry-level and administrative positions in the industry, their numbers dwindle as we go up the ladder. Those who make it to the leadership position, are clearly outliers – ambitious, talented and hungry for growth.
One of the most important factors, for the growing number of women in companies, is an inclusive workplace culture, where both, men and women, have the environment to succeed. Firms that value diversity and embrace high ethical standards, thus, providing opportunities for women to take on broader roles, will attract more female talent and eventually, have a larger talent base to pick from.
Being a woman in the real estate industry: An advantage?
With the real estate industry growing by leaps and bounds, today, if I look around me in my current organisation (Colliers International India), the opposite may hold true. There are more women than men, in the division responsible for selling homes. Being a woman in the real estate industry may, at times, be an advantage, as well. With qualities of empathy and persistence present in the DNA of most women, client relationships are honed to a larger extent. Women tend to be more nurturing, more sensitive and more patient towards client’s needs. Another aspect that women tend to bring into the business, is a more balanced and dispassionate outlook.
Women, typically, are good at balancing work and family and hence, are better at multitasking, which is a critical aspect in real estate, owing to the nature of the business. Women, in various segments of the sector, are able to bring in a unique combination of compassion, assertiveness, focus and determination. Qualified and educated women are able to balance out and provide the necessary synergies required to take the business forward.
The road ahead
Some women do opt-out prematurely, which could also be one of the reasons for their miniscule number at senior positions, not only in real estate, but in other businesses, as well. Nevertheless, visibility of women in leadership roles, examples of which are mushrooming now, have nurtured the art of balancing work and family and in turn, are helping and motivating the younger, ambitious ones. With the sector moving towards maturity, we need to see more women taking on leadership roles in all segments of real estate development, as well as consultancy. On this International Women’s Day, let’s celebrate the spirit of womanhood.
(The writer is associate director, valuation and advisory services, Colliers International India)