By PrimeResi Editor
Marking International Women’s Day, a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women, PrimeResi speaks to female leaders from across the resi industry – including design, agency, marketing and development – to discuss their careers to date, proudest moments, and where they find inspiration…
‘I feel that being a woman in property is a super-power’
As we mark International Women’s Day 2023, PrimeResi asks leaders from across the property sector to share their inspirational career stories, and favourite words of wisdom…
Liza-Jane Kelly, Head of London Residential at Savills
My property career wouldn’t be what it is today without embracing the day-to-day challenges the job brings. Every day is different and all the more rewarding for the variety. A positive mindset will enable you to recognise the inevitable mistakes as an opportunity to learn, essential to successfully navigating your professional journey. Having an optimistic outlook will also lift and encourage your team.
You become more accomplished and capable through your capacity to learn. Whatever stage you are at in your career, there is an opportunity to learn from your colleagues, others around you and life’s rich tapestry of experiences. It can require courage to step outside your comfort zone but often it is in making that step you learn the most, grow your confidence and find the greatest rewards.
Having a mentor to bounce ideas off is a great way to grow professionally. I have found mentoring others equally rewarding. While I believe it’s important to give back, I have received huge benefit form mentoring within my industry and beyond, which often provides a trove of fresh ideas.
It’s important to have empathy as a leader and to spend time listening to your teams. I regularly visit our offices across London which provides valuable local insights and a proper understanding of the challenges they face.
Be really organised and create structure. If you are organised and plan ahead both at home and at work, it enables you to be really focused and prioritise important tasks.
No matter how busy you are at work, it’s important to take time for yourself and do things that energise and inspire you. Despite the obvious hurdles I exercise in the morning before work as it clears my head and sets me up for the day – I think the expression in business is “eat the frog”!
Priya Rawal, Founder and CEO at The Luxury Property Forum and Co-host of The Real Rendezvous Podcast
There are two pieces of advice I received early on which I have lived by throughout my career.
The first is build your own personal brand. This is not as easy as it sounds and takes you to ask yourself tough questions: what you want out of your career? how you view yourself? how you would like the industry to view you? What do you stand for? what would you like to be remembered for? However, once you have asked yourself these questions and come to the answers you will know which makes your unique and what value you can bring to your clients, your boardroom, and your industry. It will give you a foundation to build upon and develop over time. This will not only build confidence, allow you to have gravitas and make an impact. Further it will keep you grounded and positive when times are tough because they inevitably will be.
The second is surround yourself with people who will make you stronger. A supportive network is essential to being successful in any sector (especially in luxury property). Building relationships with those who you admire and are aligned with values, are key to guiding you down the right path. I have been so lucky that many of these people (both men and women) have become mentors, who I have been able to turn to in times of difficulty and to whom I am forever grateful.
Linda Morey-Burrows, Founder and Principal Director of interior design and architecture firms MoreySmith and StudioMorey
Never underestimate just how important and effective your network is. As we celebrate our 30th anniversary at MoreySmith, many of our projects completing this year are with long standing clients that we first worked with in the early 1990s. Building strong relationships is fundamental to the success of any property business and I particularly have enjoyed collaborating with and mentoring other women in the industry over the years.
There is a real sense of community in the sector and developing a robust network of women colleagues means you can lean on each other when needed, which is especially useful when growing a company. As the industry is still at times very male-dominated, it really helps to have a black book of supportive contemporaries you can rely on.
My biggest piece of advice for anyone joining the industry is to look for a position or career path you will absolutely love doing and don’t feel limited by your gender when choosing a vocation. The sector encompasses so many different career pursuits and there are lots of exciting opportunities for everyone, so don’t listen to those stuck in the past who tell you what you can and cannot do!
Particularly in architecture and design, the industry is starting to make significant strides towards a gender balanced representation after years of feeling like a boys club. Having passionate women architects and designers in the room is essential to any project and something I am proud to champion at MoreySmith. We can only create incredible spaces that work for everyone if a diverse team is involved throughout the design and building process.
Camilla Dell, Managing Director of buying agency Black Brick Property Solutions
I’ve never felt that being a woman meant I couldn’t do or achieve anything I wanted to. Maybe I was/am naïve but I simply refused to believe I was at a disadvantage because of my sex. I think mindset is key and believing in yourself no matter what. I absolutely recognise that women are severely underrepresented in the property industry, but that is starting to change. And it’s not just property – the world of finance, private equity, hedge funds even charities are too white and too male.
One of the reasons I left my previous firm over 16 years ago was that there was only one female proprietary partner in the entire business – it set the wrong tone, but thankfully things are changing and moving in the right direction now.
I also feel that being a woman in property is a “super-power”. As a buying agent I feel I have the edge and the ability to empathise with my clients much more. With many of our clients, its often the female partner in the relationship that ultimately makes the decision. As a female property advisor, I stand out. All those things are good and I would encourage any woman thinking about a career in this industry to go for it. The property world needs you. Look to work for firms that have a diverse leadership team.
Jane Cronwright-Brown, Head of UK Lettings at Savills
When I moved to London aged 16 to attend the Royal Ballet School, I never imagined it would lead me to the board room and a successful property career at one of the UK’s leading estate agents.
The skills I acquired throughout my dance training, discipline, resilience, high standards, creativity, strong communication, competitiveness, an eye for detail, preparation, determination, drive, practise, perfection and continuous improvement, have continued to shape my progress and guide me through my lettings career.
After five years in the ballet studio, I was driving around Notting Hill in my mini metro as a trainee lettings negotiator! I’ve now been in the lettings industry for over 30 years and since joining Savills in 2005 I’ve grown the team to 450 strong covering over 70 locations from Tunbridge Wells to Edinburgh. It’s important to embrace opportunities and during my time at Savills I have sat on many boards and working groups. I’m currently a member of the Savills UK Board, Chair of the Lettings Executive Board, UK sponsor for The D&I Age Group, D&I ally and Chair of Savills Innovation Group. I’m proud to have a dynamic and diverse team which has enormous benefits for the business.
I enjoy all aspects of my job, but especially being a leader, working hard to inspire my team and consistently strive to develop my team to be the best that they can be. As a working mum I understand first-hand the importance of maintaining a healthy work-life balance and the challenges that many of my team face in today’s fast-paced world.
It’s important to set goals and to be ambitious, but at the same time authentic and true to yourself and your core values. I’m focused on leading the business to further growth whilst giving the best customer experience. Embrace each day with the mindset: Today is another day, and what I can do better than yesterday?
Jo Eccles, Founder and Managing Director of prime London buying agency Eccord
The property industry is extremely people-focused. Relationships and reputation are crucial, and I would advise anyone starting out and planning a long-term property career to earn their stripes by being clear about their values, remaining humble and going above and beyond – not just at the beginning, but throughout their career. The London property industry is a small world and people will remember you if you work hard and treat them politely, fairly and with integrity. The trust placed in us by our clients and the many professionals who recommend us, is not something we ever take for granted.
Since I set up Eccord in 2006, I’ve been inspired watching so many women build successful companies and rise to leadership positions across the property sector. I think the secret to success is very simple: love what you do. I have had the privilege of working with some very impressive people and viewing thousands of truly incredible homes during my career, but I never tire of it. If you live and breathe property, your passion and authenticity will shine through.
Phillippa Dalby-Welsh, Head of Savills Country Department
I think one of the key things I have learnt in business, is to never underestimate the importance of a network of mentors. I’ve always been lucky to benefit from the support of a number of people within the wider business structure, whom I got to know for no other reason than they were nice, engaging people who took an interest in my career. This group of unofficial mentors actually ended up becoming my friends and my confidants, who were always there for advice and support. Take an interest in other people’s journeys and experience and they will take an interest in yours.
Another piece of advice would be to volunteer for things above and beyond your role. Putting your hand up might not necessarily lead to career gains or financial reward, but the knowledge obtained from being involved in things outside of your day job and the people you get to interact with, really can help broaden your experience and enhance your career. One of the things I really dreaded was presenting, but I kept on putting my hand up, built my confidence and gained visibility in the business and exposure to people and opportunities I wouldn’t otherwise have done.
I think that many people don’t necessarily believe that they can do a job until they’re actually already doing 90% of the things that something requires and as a result don’t put themselves forward enough for things when actually their capabilities are already there. For these people – and I was one of them – I’d say, don’t be afraid to put your head above the parapet, you might not know how to do everything from day one but a good business will recognise potential and offer appropriate support to help you develop that skill set.
There is also something to be said for humility over the challenges of balancing work and family. In my opinion, it’s important for women in positions of responsibility to champion the need for boundaries between work and motherhood, but equally not to pretend that ‘balance’ is something that is achieved and maintained, it ebbs and flows with the demands of work and life and there are of course sacrifices along the way on both sides but equally reward. There is no one size fits all – it requires weekly if not daily review.
Mel Constantinou, Regional Partner at Knight Frank
You need to believe in yourself, your ability and what you have to offer, don’t take obstacles personally and move on positively and collaborate to overcome them.
Learn as much as you can from those around you, be coachable and be open to constructive criticism.
Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there especially if it takes you out of your comfort zone because when you’re uncomfortable that’s when incredible things happen!