There can be little argument that property has been traditionally dominated by males but in the supposedly ‘woke’ era, have strides been made to close the gap? Positive studies from real estate leaders JLL have found that gender diverse companies perform better in business, with higher sales growth and less debts. Penny Guest, Regional Director at London property agents Kinleigh, Folkard & Hayward argues that “there will always be questions about inequality in pay and career opportunities for women, especially as men have historically dominated the market.” But she doesn’t believe these issues are ever-present nor will stay around for much longer. With that being said, Cranfields Female FTSE Index statistics however show that managerial positions in real estate are still very much dominated by men and that there are few women in Executive Director positions. So how does this look across the board for women in property?
It’s important to look at the whole scale from renters to real estate tycoons. Tom Gatzen – founder of room share research site Ideal Flatmate believes: “Despite the spotlight that has focussed on the gender pay gap for quite some time, it’s clear there is still a worryingly large disparity between the earnings of female and male workers across the UK.” Ideal Flatmate went onto study the issue in relation to the rental market and found that due to this polarity between earnings, rent costs women more. The average female renter in the UK is required to spend a whopping 42.6% of their wage on rent, whilst the average male is only required to spend 28.6%. It’s not too dissimilar a situation amongst landlords either with the average rental income of male landlords recorded at £24,050 a year and females £22,550, according to Knight Knox’s yearly survey. This doesn’t make for terrible reading and definitely shows signs of improvement, however there are also less female landlords with the gender ratio recorded at around 40:60 which doesn’t make for as pretty reading.
That being said, amongst estate agents there seems to be no gender imbalance from the bottom up whatsoever in fact Hunters this year proudly reported that 60% of its staff are female including both directors, heads of department and other key decision-making roles. It also noted that 28 of its franchise directors are female, attributing this to much of their success as an agency. Similarly, Penny Guest claims: “At KFH, half our regional directors are female and we continue to embrace a modern outlook on the issue.” Conversely, whilst this is hugely positive news for gender equality, gender payment does not seem to support this. Agency businesses nationwide are worryingly still reporting massive gender pay gaps – Connells (23%), Sequence and Your Move (24%), Foxtons (25.5%) and Savills (43%).
Then there’s the key question of who’s supporting these women in UK property. The Association of Women in Property seem to be leading the narrative from the bottom up. They not only share their expertise and nurture women aspiring for a career in the industry, but impressively also offer help to those mid-level and even at senior level – working closely with Women on Boards to aid gender-balanced boardrooms. From regular podcasts to assisting on parliamentary reports, The Association of Women in Property are tackling gender inequality in property from every angle. Unfortunately there doesn’t appear to be nearly enough direct further reading on discrimination in the UK property market outside of general gender pay gap reports. Science Direct published a journal in 2018 interestingly highlighting that gender discrimination is far more apparent amongst private landlords as opposed to estate agents, this supports Peggy Guests’s aforementioned claim. However, this journal predominantly focuses on ethnic minority and majority gender discrimination as opposed to solely gender. The lack of reading on the issue can most likely be explained by its difficulty to measure aside from looking at the amount of women workers in property and the gender pay gap – which is quite commonly an issue in most industries in the UK.
Without a doubt there are many positives to take from looking at gender equality in property today. Firstly, it is no longer completely dominated by males and the imbalance looks very positive in relation to many other industries across the UK with estate agencies seemingly without an imbalance whatsoever. However, there is a worrying lack of direct reading on the issue, especially when it comes to landlords where a more noticeable gulf seems to still exist. Thankfully groups such as PropElle (a female property investment network) and The Association of Women provide a fantastic reference point and go beyond to support investment and ensure that the issue is represented across the board, from women thinking of getting into property to boardroom members. Obviously gender inequality is a wide-scale issue across so many industries but hopefully their work will encourage more to look into more innovative ways of reporting discrimination in property amongst agents, tenants, investors and landlords alike so that we can keep improving and balance the scales.