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Three immo women on diversity in the industry

Verena Bauer • 08/03/2021
International Womens Day International Womens Day

Companies with a higher degree of maturity in terms of diversity - starting with the gender ratio - are not only likely to grow faster than the competition but are also more innovative and benefit from happier clients and lower employee turnover. And, according to a study by the ZIA from 2019, the real estate industry does not leverage this potential and the report also levels the criticism that more than half of companies in the industry still have less than 10 percent of women at senior management level.

But what do figures like these actually say about the very real mood and atmosphere in companies? Should you really only pay attention to numbers of women at boardroom level? What about the responsible positions “at lower levels”? Here too, you can make a difference and become a pillar within your own company. And no means do only male candidates work at this level. So it is high time to give a face to the many ambitious women with completely normal management responsibilities. How did you get into your role? Where should the real estate industry be in ten years' time when it comes to women / men?

And is it enough to just look at the gender ratio in order to do justice to the topic of corporate diversity? We show three of our female leads, their ideas and ambitions and their attitude to previously missed opportunities in (gender) diversity. And quickly see - especially with a view to their individual entry and career paths - that the real estate industry is and can be quite multifaceted and diverse.

 

How did you get into the real estate industry?

Luisa Rotthaus, Head of Office Agency Düsseldorf: I actually approached the real estate industry very directly and decided early on to do a commercial apprenticeship in this area and then add the appropriate degree. From today's perspective, it was exactly the right path for me. I am still fascinated by the speed and dynamism with which the market and trends - especially with regard to commercial real estate - change.

Verena Bauer, Head of Corporate Communications Germany: My path was - at least as far as the industry is concerned - more of a lateral entry. My career in communications, on the other hand, has been constant with diversity, above all, in the products and services that I have marketed for companies. These weren't always real estate, but include technologies, funds and handicraft materials. I have always found this diversity of topics to be a great asset. Because it forces you to think outside the box. The step into the real estate industry came five years ago with new exciting trends and stories to be marketed - again a rethink “out of the box” for me personally.

 

Head of Marketing and Communications Germany

Verena Bauer

marketbeats retail

When choosing their employees and putting together their teams, companies have to look even more closely at the many other characteristics that make up diversity - introverted vs. extroverted, creative vs. conservative, skeptical vs. simply doers."

What made the path to leadership open for you? And was it harder than for male colleagues?

LR: No, I can't remember feeling a glass ceiling where I got stuck at any point. Basically, I think that a professional career goes hand in hand with a lot of work and professional development and that performance pays off in the long term - regardless of whether you are a man or a woman. At C&W in particular, I felt valued and supported in terms of career and leadership. And I also think that society has already changed and opened up a lot when it comes to women in management positions.

 

Nevertheless, the figures show that women are still underrepresented, especially in senior management positions. Why is that?

Tina Reuter, Head of Asset Services EMEA : Unfortunately, in some companies there seem to be men on the board of directors and, also the level below, who want to “stay among themselves”. I am of the opinion that when it comes to equality in the world of work, society is not yet as advanced as is often suggested. So-called stereotypes and traditional role models, which are already conveyed in childhood, are just too firmly anchored in this country - mind you, also among the women themselves. When I was pregnant with my first child, I received critical looks from my own gender when I returned to full-time work immediately after maternity leave. Significant: Shortly afterwards I started in my leadership role at EMEA level - and suddenly I was no longer "branded" by my European colleagues when I told them that my daughter is only 8 months old and that I still have high professional ambitions. In most other countries and in an international context, this is completely normal.

VB: And even if you opt for a part-time model, it doesn't have to be an obstacle to leadership, but it depends heavily on the respective corporate thinking and culture. A team can also be led excellently with a reduced position. There are companies that have increased their performance with a basic 4-day week and are successfully managed. This idea gets out of balance when part-time work is only available to half of society - just as it often is, with women.

 

Head of Office Agency Düsseldorf

Luisa Rotthaus

marketbeats retail
Basically, I am of the opinion that a professional career goes hand in hand with a lot of work and professional development and that the performance pays off in the long term - regardless of whether you are a man or a woman."

What else would have to change in order to further “straighten out” the imbalance on the upper storeys?

TR: Companies in this country have to see diversity as a strength - not as a disruptive factor - and promote diversity. And as a woman, you should demand this much more confidently and not allow yourself to be squeezed into old role models. I was fortunate enough to work in companies for which diversity was always important. Change will only succeed if the top of the company is open to new perspectives and exemplifies them.

LR: It is now clear that various teams have a positive effect on the working atmosphere, employee loyalty, image and performance figures. Diversity means competitiveness and for this reason alone, management teams with women are recommended.

 

Speaking of management team - in most studies on the subject of “women in the real estate industry”, mostly only those with management responsibility - and here often only at the highest level - are included. But what about all of those who make an equally large contribution to the prosperity of the industry? Are they also so underrepresented? And should that also be valued more in studies?

VB: I am proud that we have a 50-50 distribution among our workforce at C&W - across all levels. But looking at the top is particularly interesting because this is where the greatest differences usually still exist.

TR: That's right - at the higher levels, almost 80 percent of managers are men. In order to remain fit for the future, companies must now inevitably change their thinking patterns and structures in order to eliminate obstacles for women at all levels.

VB: And that goes far beyond gender or nationality. When choosing their employees and putting together their teams, companies have to look even more closely at the many other characteristics that make up diversity - introverted vs. extroverted, creative vs. conservative, sceptical vs. simply doers. The whole discussion about diversity has to become much more complex and profound in order to position itself as a company optimally for the future.

Head of Asset Services EMEA

Tina Reuter

marketbeats retail

Companies in this country must see diversity as a strength - not as a disruptive factor - and promote diversity. And as a woman, too, you should demand this much more confidently and not allow yourself to be squeezed into old role models."

Yes, the future. What should the real estate industry look like in ten years with a view to (gender) diversity?

LR: Still fair - for all genders. For me, this means performance and result-based opportunities that are not influenced by quotas.

VB: The industry will definitely continue to be challenged for the next few years and has to make itself even more fit for the future with diversity at the top. Because this requires the most suitable people at decision-making level. And they don't depend on gender.

TR: Accepting diversity was an important first step that most companies have already taken. The next step has to be to consciously expand this diversity. I hope that corporate cultures will be fully open to different people in ten years' time. Each individual should be given the opportunity to contribute their full potential. And I am convinced that we will then no longer talk or discuss the conscious promotion of diversity. It should have become a matter of course.

 

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