Creating a positive example through diversity: why commercial property should lead from the front

10th February 2020


“Brave work, tough conversations, whole hearts” – Dare to Lead, Brené Brown (2018)

In January 2019 the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) issued a consultation response report called ‘Future of the Profession’. This document followed on from a 2015 report, ‘RICS Futures : Our Changing World’. The report compiles and presents data on a number of matters which will allow the RICS to assess their, ‘readiness for the future’, according to Chris Brooke FRICS (RICS President) and Sean Tompkins (RICS CEO).

Part 3 of the report, ‘How should we be responding to address the challenges and opportunities the profession is seeing?’ discusses in detail how the profession can be supported so as to remain relevant, to ensure change is navigated effectively. One of the issues noted is diversity.

As a Chartered Surveyor practising in the Commercial Asset Management specialism for the past 14 years, I’ve certainly seen a change in the environment in which I work. Transparency in all aspects of working practice is critical. Clients need more from their Surveyor, indeed – they want more. Fees are more competitive. Only the best survive.

So what makes a Surveyor the best at what they do? What makes the company they work for the best? How do they arm themselves with the skills to navigate the increasingly challenging environment?

It’s simple; a variety of experienced individuals who come together and work as a team. Males and females, in equal measures, at all levels of the business. Each bringing, in the way their minds physically operate, a completely different take on things. Fact: diverse structures make better decisions.

Women are arguably more intuitive, patient, multi-taskers. Men often more competitive, rational, assertive. What a combination that is for a successful business!

So it’s disappointing that there are as little as 25 women who chair in the FTSE 350 companies. The Hampton-Alexander Review, which is supported by the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy and the Government Equalities Office, is working hard to increase the number of women on the Boards, and change this environment.

We need the inspiration, and the vision, to encourage, support and show young professionals coming into the profession that they have as much chance as their fellow male colleagues to lead. But change has to come from within too.

That said, there has been improvement. FTSE 100 companies are on target for women to make up at least a third of Boards by the end of 2020. The chair of the review, Sir Phillip Hampton, said “strengthening the number of women in executive positions is critical to achieving long-term gender balance”.

Approaching this from a business owner’s perspective, Charlotte Perkins, Group Managing Director of insurance and financial services firm, The Wilson Organisation, told us: “I run our family business alongside my sister, Annabel. Gender parity at all levels of business management needs to be addressed.

“Insurance is traditionally considered to be a male-dominated industry. We have a team of 48 at Wilsons and are proud that we are 50/50 in terms of gender split across the business and at senior management and Board level.

“Hopefully, as we move into a new decade the awareness of gender equality in the workplace will encourage others to become more forward thinking. Research shows that family businesses in the UK have a greater number of women in leadership roles; the sector is thriving – and advancing women, including non-family members, further and faster than non-family firms.”

So as we move into a new decade, where only the most diverse companies will prosper, it’s down to businesses to proactively approach and alter the working environment. If not for their own benefit, so as to lead a strong, positive example for the younger generations.


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