Six key steps to increase women in real estate

By Yesenia Scheker-Izquierdo

In order to navigate disruption, capitalize on change and drive innovation in the real estate industry, expanding the diversity of ideas has become a necessity. To achieve this, numerous real estate companies are pushing gender diversity initiatives, empowering women at all levels.

There are three key priorities for driving gender diversity in real estate and consequently driving value:

1.       Entry: Bringing more women into real estate

Leading real estate companies and their partner organizations are currently implementing innovative programs and initiatives designed to bring more women in the door. Change is being driven largely through targeted campus recruiting. Real estate companies also need to address the potential for unconscious bias in key talent processes and decisions.

2.       Retention: Creating a supportive and inclusive culture that allows women to thrive

To face the challenge of retaining female real estate professionals, leading real estate firms are investing in mentoring programs, which pair high-potential women with senior female leaders for networking and education. Sponsors, who spend their own political “capital” to give sponsees special opportunities, can also make a big difference in a company’s ability to retain female talent.

3.       Reentry: Welcoming and integrating women back to work

Through policies, programs, and culture change, many real estate companies are looking to create more viable paths for women to return to work after having children, and also create better work-life balance for working mothers. Viable reentry programs can lead to greater retention of female professionals.

There are six key actions real estate owners and asset managers can take now to help women rise, and return on investment soar:

1.       Build the pipeline: Cast a broad recruiting net and seek out nontraditional candidate pools.

2.       Support them: Create opportunities for mentorship and sponsorship for women.

3.       Embrace the new: Real estate is changing dramatically. Diverse ideas may be what sets the winners apart.

4.       Partner up: Collaborate with nonprofits and universities focused on women’s career advancement.

5.       Make it policy: Formalize diversity initiatives, such as robust leave policies and objective promotion criteria.

6.       Keep them here: Reduce barriers to retaining women with culture change, policy change, and leadership training.

Recently, 61 real estate industry professionals responded to the KPMG Women in Alternative Investments Survey. Ninety-three percent of respondents were women. Here are some key real estate-specific findings:

  • Nearly three-quarters, 72%, of real estate industry professionals agree that achieving gender diversity is a business imperative.
  • Real estate investors are pushing for diversity – 79% of real estate respondents have witnessed investors asking investment teams about their firm’s diversity efforts.
  • The majority, 61%, of real estate professionals do not think the real estate sector is doing enough to recruit, retain, and advance women.

Yesenia Scheker-Izquierdo is the partner in charge of KPMG's New York Real Estate Tax practice and the global Tax leader for KPMG's Building, Construction & Real Estate Tax practice. For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact Andreas Marathovouniotis.

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