Since 1975, March 8th has seen an annual celebration of International Women’s Day in conjunction with the United Nations movement. Members of DeVono’s senior leadership team, Gemma Foord, Director, Flexible Leasing & Consulting and Stephanie Cowles, Director, Client Services offer their insights from over 30 years’ collective experience inside the commercial property sector.
According to the ‘Fast-tracking gender balance across real estate’ report from 2019 by PwC and Real Estate Balance, women only made up 30% of senior leadership within the sector in 2019, and at the board level, only 22%. At DeVono, 50% of the heads of department are women.
When asked about opportunities for women in the commercial property sector, Gemma observes that it is dedication and hard work that will get you to where you want to be. Within the flexible workspace industry specifically, a healthy proportion of executives are women propelling the sector to where it is today. “Everyone needs to create their own opportunities. Know your own worth and be clear with yourself on what you want to achieve and remind yourself of the value you bring,” she adds.
On her experience of managing teams in the industry and at DeVono, Stephanie noted that being responsible for teams that have very diverse functions within the business can sometimes raise questions around the differing needs and support required by men and women in the workplace. However, she believes that as leaders, it is crucial to clearly see that every individual has their own unique circumstances at play, which require specific and personal attention that is predominately undefined by gender roles. “It is great to see is that there is a growing presence of women in the property industry and it is absolutely necessary to help support their confidence and inclusion sometimes by creating a platform to communicate openly or finding a mentor to confide and relate to,” she adds.
Much of DeVono’s success can be attributed to its inclusive and meritocratic company culture. “At DeVono, we have developed an open office culture where mentorship and equal opportunities for growth are available to men and women alike,” says Gemma. “Mentoring is something that is available to anyone who needs it at DeVono and it’s important for individuals to be aware of this opportunity and to just simply ask for the support,” adds Stephanie. With 50% of DeVono’s Heads of Departments now being women, DeVono are proud to see the organisation’s aim of cultivating a diverse and inclusive culture starting to bear fruit.
The Rose Review of Female Entrepreneurship conducted in 2019 states that only 1 in 3 UK entrepreneurs are female leading to “a gender gap equivalent to 1.1 million missing businesses”. The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) cites that female-led businesses are only 44% of the size of male-led businesses on average. Male SMEs are also five times more likely to scale up to £1million+ turnover than female SMEs indicating that there is definitely room for improvement and greater opportunities in ‘levelling up’ the playing field.
With reference to the commercial property sector, Gemma notes that women business owners have raised the bar in terms of workspace design and co-working space aesthetics, something that was lacking in most serviced business centres of the 1990s and 2000s. However, in the last five years, she has seen a significant focus on budget allocation for aesthetics and design. “Although front of house staff training has always been a consideration for serviced office providers, we’ve seen elevated hospitality and the infusion of sophisticated customer service behind the doors of FORA and Uncommon for example, both with women business owners,” she adds.
DeVono is a values-oriented, ambitious business committed to growing beyond its current success. DeVono’s leadership team are focused on not just adding more members to the team, but are also constantly training and offering mentorship to staff. “It goes without saying that a key factor that underpins much of our success is equality and fair opportunity to all stakeholders within the company,” Stephanie concludes.