Women and real estate: the battle is not yet won
Written by Charles-Étienne Carrier and published in Premières en affaires.
Real estate covers a broad spectrum of professions, and women are gradually making themselves heard in this traditionally male-dominated sector.
From construction and investment funds to communications and management, women are carving our their place, but the battle is far from over. So what remains to be done to ensure that real estate roles are distributed evenly between men and women? Premières en affaires put this question to women with a front row seat.
Various studies on the presence of women in the real estate sector indicate that much progress has been made in recent years. “We are noting positive change on a daily basis. Women are interested in real estate development as well as management and professional support,” said Chantal Cousineau, Partner, Practice Leader Real Estate and Construction at BDO, and board member of CREW M. But she notes a major obstacle: the weight of the network. “Women place a lot of importance on skills. But it’s the network that drives career development.” And even though a growing number of organizations are making a concerted effort to support women, the latter still have to make a bold effort to break the glass ceiling.
BOLDNESS = COURAGE TO SURMOUNT ANY OBSTACLE OR LIMITATION
Nathalie Palladitcheff was appointed President of Ivanhoé Cambridge in March 2018. She believes that one of the key factors that allowed her to achieve this position was her confidence in the choices she made. Granted, she admits that, for many women, having self-confidence is not a given: “As young girls and young women, how we are raised places a lesser emphasis on self-confidence, on trusting our instincts, our intuition and our choices.” But many men with successful careers demonstrate unwavering confidence, boldness and nerve. And for women? “Being bold is more of a fantasy, with a somewhat frivolous or even negative connotation,” said the executive. “When a man pursues an adventurous career path, it is seen as ambitious and entrepreneurial. In my generation, having the courage to express one’s opinions and choices makes women more open to criticism. And that’s precisely when you need self-confidence.”
FOLLOWING YOUR INSTINCTS
Boldness is one thing. Intuition is another. And for women it can be harder to listen to that little voice inside telling you to make this or that decision. Stéphanie Lincourt, Partner at Richter and CPA Auditor specializing in the real estate sector, has never felt that she was treated differently because she is a woman. But she admits that it is getting harder and harder to make one’s way: “We have different ideas and different ways of communicating. The hardest thing of all is following your intuition and trusting yourself.” At 39 years of age, she too has been president of CREW M and, in that capacity, she has seen that in Quebec—while there are still limitations in certain sectors—there is an openness of mind that is not apparent elsewhere in Canada or the U.S.
THE POWER OF THE NEXT GENERATION
The situation is improving, thanks to a growing number of successful role models. Andrée De Serres, a professor at the UQAM School of Management, has held the Ivanhoé Cambridge Real Estate Chair since 2011. She strives to maintain parity within her team of researchers, research assistants and professionals. So does this mean young women are seeing a diminished degree of male predominance in the real estate world? “There’s definitely an improvement,” said the researcher, who believes strongly in the potential of this new wave. “The more we see women in key, visible roles, the more it bolsters and encourages the younger generation to step up.” But the situation is still largely unequal: women remain under-represented in the commercial brokerage and construction sectors.
STAYING THE COURSE AND ACHIEVING ONE’S OBJECTIVES
For the new generation, nothing is impossible. Yet while a lot of women starting their careers aspire to decision-making roles, they aren’t able to make it up the ladder. “Why not encourage young women who express motivation from the start? We lose them along the road to the top echelons,” concludes Nathalie Palladitcheff. “Ten years later, they aren’t the ones we see sitting in the vice-president’s chair.” To make the industry more inclusive, we need to recognize that having more and more women in leading roles is what will bring about parity. Because for the young generation, these ambitious women are compelling role models of success who have enormous potential. So the scope and reach of these role models should not be underestimated.