The generational shift underway will accelerate the transformation of the slow-moving property industry, experts agreed at Real Asset Media’s Diversity, Equity & Inclusion in Real Estate briefing, which took place at the International Investors Lounge on the final day of the EXPO Real trade fair in Munich yesterday.
“Young people take gender equality for granted, just as they are naturally interested in environmental issues,” said Alexia Manukwem, senior manager transaction services real estate, PwC Germany. “It is part of their world and it doesn’t have to be imposed on them from above. They don’t need KPIs.”
There have been big improvements in Europe in the last few years, even if it still lags behind the US. The momentum is now building and change is being driven by women and younger employees from inside companies.
“We have to keep reminding ourselves and others of the importance of diversity, but for young people it’s a natural way of thinking,” said Marcia Schless, founding partner, Pink Line Real Estate Consultancy. “This gives me hope for the future.”
One way of moving ahead is gathering data and doing regular surveys to keep track of progress, which is what has been happening for decades in the US but is not the norm in Europe yet.
“We love data and they are crucial to track development over time,” said Manukwem, “It’s also important to get feedback from people to gather ideas and have a sense of what they are thinking about these issues.”
The picture is very varied across Europe, with Nordic countries far ahead and others at different stages of development.
“The Netherlands is regarded as a very progressive country, yet the real estate sector is still lagging behind the financial sector and others,” said Schless. “There’s a long way to go yet.”
Poland, on the other hand, has made considerable strides in the right direction, and women are well represented in the real estate sector at all levels.
“In Poland it is accepted that women should get ahead,” said Sylwia Ziemacka, board member, Share the Care Foundation. “They are regarded as experts in their field, not just on women issues.”
The change that is happening in the sector is benefitting men as well as women. “It works both ways,” Ziemacka said. “It is good for women not to be marginalised, but it will also be good for men if they are no longer expected to do deals at late-night dinners, or work at the weekend”.
Another factor that should drive rapid progress in the next few years is the way working practices are being reviewed and there is more focus on wellbeing after the pandemic. For young professionals, some things are non-negotiable and this will bring about change.
“There is much more awareness of the work/life balance issue and that is improving things already,” said Manukwem. “Companies know creating an inclusive environment will make it easier to attract talent, so I am confident development will accelerate in the next few years.”
[Images: Sabine M Mairiedl, Munich]