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News Release

London

Reflections on women in property on International Women's Day


​As we mark International Women's Day, we do so with a projection from the World Economic Forum that global gender parity will not be realised until 2133 - an adjustment from the 2095 projected in 2014.    

 The Lord Davies report from October 2015 highlighted that female representation on boards stood at 26.1% at FTSE 100 companies and 19.6% at FTSE 250 firms. While this is a drastic improvement it is still not reflective of our society and there is also still a big lag in women holding executive positions. The report noted that only 9.6% of executive positions are held by women in these firms.

 IWD marks this year a call for action for accelerating gender parity.  On a personal level it is also an opportunity to pay tribute and recognise those organisations, companies, men and women who are working together to remove barriers, challenge unconscious bias and help women advance because they know it makes business sense.  This has never been a battle of the sexes - this is about embracing the benefit that diversity will bring to our economy - and being frustrated that it is potentially beyond the lifespan of our generation and the next, unless there is a step change...

 ONS figures from earlier this year highlighted that 16.77 million men are working full or part time compared to 14.64 million. Getting more women into business is a key driver for the UK's economic growth and prosperity, and is vital to the overall health of our economy.

 I can say that real estate and the construction industry have nurtured, challenged and rewarded me for over twenty years. However, we struggle to attract and retain female talent, especially in the construction field.

I was concerned to read statistics around Women in Construction published by the Office of National Statistics (ONS) which shows that women make up only 11.2% of the construction workforce (compared to 57% in real estate) - the lowest level recorded in three years. At its peak in Q2 2005 it was 13.3%. Initiatives, campaigns and greater awareness have failed to make a dent and so we see our sector skills shortage compounded by our failure to consider diversity.  Figures from RICS show that 8% of UK and Ireland qualified Building Surveyors, Costs Managers and Project Managers are female (compared to 13% across all fields.) Encouragingly, there has been an increase in the percentage of women in the newly qualified figures across all real estate specialisms. From 22.7% in 2012/13 it rose to 24.2% in 2014/15. In 2014/25 women made up 13.8% of those who were newly qualified in Building Surveying, Quantity Surveying and Project Management, a rise from the 13.5% in 2012-13. Of course, this is still only a small percentage of the wider talent pool that the industry needs to tap into.

On a personal level I would like to see a closer link between engineering and construction. The momentum behind science, technology, engineering and math, otherwise known as STEM subjects in schools is enormous, and construction has come late to the table. We need to boost its profile to highlight how new technology and evolving construction methods are making it an exciting place to work.  In hosting a STEM based event for schools within our JLL offices we were able to showcase our recent office fit out and the work of our team as well as showcase the schemes transforming the London skyline. This was a great opportunity to demonstrate the value of the profession to a broad spectrum of young minds. I am also pleased with the momentum around the European Women in Construction & Engineering Awards, an event where I have been asked to be -a  judge

Broadly speaking, real estate is generally better at attracting women than the construction industry.  However, the major challenge across the sector is the nurturing and retention of female talent and its presence in the Board room  as noted by Sheila Penrose who is JLL Chairman  This is not just about maternity arrangements - this is about accepting flexible working for men and women and creating an inclusive culture and environment where women can thrive.

We are taking action at JLL to appeal to and keep hold of more women because we understand that it makes good business sense. We are getting smarter at collecting diversity data and we are surveying female alumni to work out the reasons behind departures and ways we can encourage returners. We have also undertaken unconscious bias training for senior leaders and last but not least, established an in-house Network to support, mentor and train women to enable them to reach their full potential. It is an honour to lead this initiative, and in true inclusive style we have men on our committee and welcome to our events which have included presentations from female business leaders and sportswomen. 

Property is more than location and construction is more than bricks and mortar - they are both about people. Those companies, business leaders and employers who take action to make their organisations places where talented people can do their best work whatever their gender are the ones we need to celebrate today and who will be the winners tomorrow.