CREW UK launched its first mentorship programme, providing an opportunity for professionals in real estate to connect with and learn from senior executives in the industry. In this exclusive interview, we spoke with Adina David, Founder of Ladies in Real Estate, about the CREW UK mentorship programme and the need to increase gender representation in real estate.
What motivated you to create a mentorship programme for CREW UK? Why was there a need for it?
Adina David: CREW UK approached me, via my organisation, Ladies in Real Estate (LiRE), to partner up on this mentorship programme. Their platform is still growing in the UK, but they are a huge organisation in the US with a very large network and extensive resources. This programme was an extension of one they already run in the US, so the technology platform was already set up and ready to use. I think our two organisations share similar values around openness and inclusivity, focusing on helping women across the entire property industry to network, build relationships, and grow together. I think more organisations within our space need to come together to collaborate because we can have a much greater impact when we unite our resources. Mentorship is always valuable to all professionals because it allows us to think through our paths with others who have already experienced aspects of it and that support is key to growth. Covid19 has also put the world on a bit of a pause and I think now is an excellent time for some introspection and reflection on where we want to go, which I think mentorship can help uncover.
What do you hope to achieve through this mentorship programme?
Adina David: My hope is that the collaboration between LiRE and CREW UK will be seen as a positive step of two women’s organisations coming together to help fellow women in the UK property industry. I hope that the programme creates meaningful conversations and relationships that will last beyond the duration of the programme. I especially hope that personal relationships are formed so that women, who are a minority in our industry, feel supported to continue within the sector and grow as professionals.
What are you looking for in a mentorship programme applicant? Do you have any advice for applicants? What can they do to stand out in their application?
Adina David: This was open to all members of our two organisations on a first-come, first-served basis. There was no other qualification and it was also open to men (we do have male mentors). The only request of the mentees was that they engage with their mentors, stay proactive in the relationship, plan the agenda for the meetings, and ensure follow up. This is an initial six-month pilot of the programme in the UK, so we can give better guidance following feedback from participants.
The real estate sector has been historically a largely male-led sector, would you say that that still the case? If yes, what needs to change to establish greater gender representation in real estate? If it is not the case any more, what brought about this change and how can companies in the real estate industry continue to promote gender diversity?
Adina David: The real estate sector is still failing to attract a lot of women and I believe it has to do with education about the sector. The industry is not really promoted in schools enough and many only end up in it because of family members or chance (e.g., they attend a school or programme that attracts recruitment from large real estate companies). I think the industry needs to cast a wider net to schools outside the usual group. Whilst some companies have done a good job at balancing their junior recruits, we’re still not seeing the industry is very balanced as you go up in seniority. More needs to be done in retaining and promoting female talent, which I think can be done if they are encouraged to be a part of support networks, such as LiRE or CREW UK or others.
Does gender play a role in how people in the real estate industry handle business? Is there such a thing as a ‘female’ approach to commercial real estate?
Adina David: I think overall women-led companies outperform those led by men. Sadly, there are not very many of those in commercial real estate to point to. There are many senior women in the industry who are doing very well, but we need to do more at the C-suite and board level to balance it out. I’m not sure we need a “female” approach – we just need more women represented to reflect the overall society. The built environment affects everyone and the industry that directly impacts it should be open to and represent everyone as well.
How can companies in the real estate industry promote greater inclusion in their workplace culture? What are the challenges of this and what does the industry stand to gain from better integration of diversity?
Adina David: The shift has to be intentional and quotas need to be created, at least initially, to enact real change. Charges of tokenism may come up, but visibility is so important that just by having women and ethnic minorities gain more representation at the top will tell others that there is room for them, and that the industry is open to diverse opinions and thoughts that reflect the wider society. This will help with a more well-rounded culture and support out-of-the-box thinking that cannot happen if established notions of doing business are not challenged.