When just 12 per cent of the sector is female, it’s no wonder property is often considered a man’s game.
But whether it’s donning hard hats or networking and negotiating the next big deal, women are challenging the male-centric ecosystem. And while they may take a different approach, women are demonstrating how they can add a valuable and unique dimension to the high octane world of property wheeling and dealing.
Marcia Bowden is a national leasing consultant with Colliers, and observes that women bring unique and valuable skills to the negotiation table.
“Women are better at listening, tend to leave their egos at the door, and they are good at building long-term relationships – all essential in a good leasing agent,” she said.
While relationship building is essential in the leasing game, Bowden notes women tend to focus less on meetings at the bar and more on long-term connections.
“Clients connect with us on a different level to our male counterparts. We tend to interact on a personal level – it’s all about ‘how’s your family’ instead of ‘let’s go and have a beer,’” she explained. “But ultimately, if you can’t deliver the goods, it doesn’t matter how good your relationships are.”
Property is “not a profession for shrinking violets – whether you’re a man or a woman,” she noted.
But success is possible, as CBRE’s Belinda Hedley can confirm.
While Hedley admits that the sales and leasing arena has traditionally been a “boys’ club, she believes clients and customers are becoming more discerning.
“They are looking for solutions-driven, helpful professionals who are well educated, well informed and listen to their customers and clients,” she said, adding that these attributes can apply in equal measure to men and women at the top of their game.
JLL’s National Leasing Manager, Amy Castro, is another woman ascending the property ladder. She says she uses “mediation skills and intuition at the negotiating table rather than brute force. And I collaborate. It’s a different mindset.”
Castro has honed her highly-developed negotiation skills both in the field and, as a mother of two young children, suggests that motherhood is the perfect training ground for the challenging world of commercial real estate.
“There are many symmetries between motherhood and a good or bad leasing deal. I am with my clients for the long-term and I need to have intimate knowledge of their drivers for success,” she said.
Castro adds that, while many of her male colleagues “focus on the dollar values for a one off deal," she looks at the big picture.
Women are also great communicators, using ‘soft power’ instead of might and muscle. Knight Frank director Nicola Cooper thinks that “woman are more intuitive, which positions them better in negotiations.”
The jury may be out on whether women have unique skills and attributes for property wheeling and dealing. However, one thing is clear. Clients are increasingly demand workforce diversity, and that means they want to collaborate with leasing agents that reflect their own workforces. And when diversity is a driver, a sea of men in black suits no longer fits the bill.