Proptech is doing more than facilitating the deal-making process or ensuring buildings operate more efficiently. By bringing in new ways of working, it’s now disrupting a long-standing cornerstone of the industry itself: it’s male-dominated image.
While equal representation of men and women in property is still some way off, there is evidence of “tangible change,” according to a recent report from the Property Council of Australia and EY.
Its survey of 2,600 industry employees shows that over the past two years flexible working arrangements, such as being able to work where and when best suits their personal needs – so a shift from presenteeism and hours of work to outcomes – had become more normalized, and therefore more accommodating of staff with responsibilities at home. Real estate companies are also taking strides to close the gender pay gap.
Technology, say experts, has been part of this.
“I see many examples of how the increased take up of technology in our industry is really changing the way these roles actually operate,” says Carolyn Trickett, JLL’s Head of Business Technology in Property and Asset Management, Asia Pacific.
Take property management, which involves handling the day-to-day activities in keeping a building operational. Roles in this part of the property world used to lean toward the practical. Employees were plumbers, or electricians, who understood what needed doing.
But now, there’s so much technology intertwined with those systems that’s it’s more an analytical role.
“That, in itself, means the women who didn’t go down the path of construction or engineering, because they weren’t interested in that side, now have more aptitude for these roles as they’re becoming more analytical and computer-based rather than practical-based,” Trickett says.
In both real estate and tech sectors, stereotypes are recognized as one of the biggest barriers to women.
The PCA and EY survey show that 61 percent of women and 34 percent of men believe a ‘boys club mentality’ discourages people from working in property.
And according to a survey of 1,000 young people in the UK from Tech City, women tend not to be attracted to the tech sector because they felt they wouldn’t fit in.
This has also been observed by Melati de Haas, director and founder of the Australian proptech start-up Bygent – an app that connects consumers to a suitable buyer’s agent on demand.
“Stereotypes control more of our society than most people realise, and this can have a negative effect, which translates to male-dominated industries,” de Haas says.
“Without innovation, gender diversity and equality cannot evolve, so the fusing of technology with traditional industries is essential to achieving this. The future is very bright for gender diversity but it does require constant attention to ensure women are given the same opportunities as their male counterparts, such as funding and salary.”
Addressing the issues
While change is afoot, with numerous initiatives in place aimed at tackling gender disparity in property, the momentum must continue if nothing else to reverse the fundamental issue of how career paths are presented to students, according to Trickett.
Building the confidence of young girls to pursue a career that rewards stereotypically male qualities is a part of this challenge, as well as developing skills such as presentation, negotiating and influencing, she says.
“I think those skills are really important to teach kids before they even start wondering what they’re going to do when they grow up,” Trickett says.
“Women are more likely to criticize themselves and feel like they’re not good enough, and I think sales in particular is an area that’s very confronting for a lot of women who don’t have that natural self-confidence that men are more likely to have.”
Based on the graduate candidates she is currently seeing, Trickett is confident that in a decade, the property landscape will look very different from now.
“We now have complete gender balance at that level,” she says. “So in another 10 years, when those people are in senior management roles, I think we’ll see a big difference across the board.”