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Thousands of guests attended the Landlord Investment Show (LIS) on June 13 in London Olympia, where attendees were invited to a number of seminars and debates. These crowd-drawing events covered various topics within the UK’s property market, including the subject of buy-to-let and the private rental sector.

Major themes highlighted during the event included opportunities and threats in the property world, which proved to be of significant interest to professional landlords in the sector, as well as newcomers to the world of property investment.

One of the most engaging debates featured during the event centred on the topic of women in property. Hosted by Sara Damergi, this panel discussion explored what it is like for women to operate in the UK property market.

Knight Knox – MPU

The seminar encouraged female UK landlords, investors and developers to share their stories and take part in the debate on a complex topic, presenting their own thoughts and advice for the female property community.

The panel consisted of television presenter and property expert, Sara Damergi; landlord and co-founder of Landlord Investment Show, Tracey Hanbury; senior associate of Royds Withy King, Zainab Dakhil; founder of George Property Services, Marie Parris and sales director at Mortgages for Business, Jeni Browne.

Women in property

Sara Damergi opened the debate with the statement: “It seems as though the world of business is mainly male-dominated”. She went on to explain that imbalance in salary and unequal opportunities have existed for centuries and this is no different in the property industry.

In fact, gender pay gaps above the national average have been revealed, with women getting paid, on average, 30 per cent less than men, according to a recent Gender Pay Gap report from Kinleigh Folkard & Hayward.

These known facts brought the property experts back to the question: Why are there more male figures in the property sector and why is the subject of gender inequality in property still making headlines?

Roots lie in history

Zainab Dakhil stated in the debate that she believes the imbalance stems from the fact that in the past, women were hindered from entering the industry, which, in turn, allowed men to fill most of the senior roles that exist today.

In fact, just 150 years ago, married women were not allowed to own their own property. In 1882, society made a step forward with women being able to legally own a piece of land. Decades later, in 1918, a momentous law was passed, legislating women over 30 to have the right to vote. Nonetheless, Marie Parris reminded the audience that in the 70s, women were refused to sign mortgages, unless they had a male guarantor.

Today, decades later, women still represent only about 15 per cent of the workforce in the property industry. These were the factors throughout history that Ms Parris identified as the overriding causes for gender imbalance in the UK property industry.

Subconscious bias

Many believe the problem also lies in prejudice during the recruitment of female employees. Sceptics argue that the unconscious bias of recruiters hinders women from filling managerial positions, as they believe they will not be as ‘assertive’ or ‘dominant’ as men. Women are also said to typically possess ‘soft skills’, such as flexibility, good communication and cooperativeness, rather than ‘hard skills’, which are necessary for leadership positions. This has created a distorted view of female potential, some have claimed.

However, some believe that merely those with talent and skills are hired and biased recruitment has little to do with it, with the majority of senior roles filled by men who happen to be qualified for the position.

Nevertheless, this allowed Tracey Hanbury to emphasise the value of professionalism and how knowledge and education of the world of property investment is that what brings an individual further, regardless of gender.

“So, make use of your woman’s charm [to succeed in the role] and be professional,” Ms Hanbury encouraged emerging female property investors.

Female empowerment at London Olympia

“Females in the property market must raise their voices,” Sara Damergi prompted. In order to bring more diversity into the field, the five women on the LIS panel urged upcoming and professional female investors, landlords and developers to research their field of study and educate themselves, in order to fight for their place in the industry.

Ms Hanbury touched on her own experience of handling her property business and her family at the same time. “It is stressful but manageable,” Ms Hanbury stated. She explained that women understand how to run a household, and therefore can multitask. They tend to be more intuitive and considerate towards the emotions of others, which all five women agreed is what makes women great landlords.

The five industry professionals also commented that they had all witnessed more women empowerment in the sector. In fact, the number of females searching for property rose by 140 per cent and from September to October last year, female investors increased by 78 per cent, according to recent research from property investment company RW Invest. The buy-to-let market is also increasingly dominated by women today and as much as 59 percent of business owners under the age of 35 were revealed to be female, according to research conducted by HSBC in 2016.

Knowledge & professionalism

Ms Parris mentioned during the talk that it is crucial for women to never give up, manage their own properties and, most importantly, educate themselves on how to reach the top.

She stated: “Don’t be in fear, fear paralyses us. Then you will look back and say ‘if only’. Sometimes you have just got to beat that fear and say ‘I’m going to do this’. For the younger women in here, I would say this is your defining decade. Learn from what women in their senior roles are doing… and what decisions they made in their 20s.”

Ms Parris concluded: “So it is very important for you to set yourselves up where you want to be. And I would say, just ‘GFI’ – go for it.”

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Pia Subramaniam
Pia provides Property Notify readers with her insights into the UK property market, through her reporting on the social impact of various housing policies. She also specialises in covering the relationship between immigration and housing, as well as investigating loopholes in the market and concerns voiced by landlords and tenants.

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