It was good to be back at this year's Property Week RESI conference in its new post-COVID format at London's Royal Lancaster Hotel. The thoughtful and far reaching two day programme of panels, speakers and roundtables covered a lot of ground. A huge range of topics were tackled, and it was good to see some new faces joining the discussion including Gen Z representative Hannah Chappatte who launched her new student accommodation platform straight out of university. I was delighted to be on the Advisory Board for the event and also to be one of the judges for the Trailblazers Award and to see the talented young leaders who emerged victorious.
I chaired one of the breakout sessions on women in real estate. Our group provided a range of views from women working in different parts of the real estate sector and even included a couple of men. Inevitably, the problem of managing a demanding job and the culture of the workplace came up for discussion. The group felt there weren’t enough positive female role models and that they would like to have access to more mentoring. There are certainly many more female role models than when I started my career at a time when male clients still had to be asked if they were happy to be advised by a female lawyer. The point was made, by one of our male participants, that construction is still seen as 'traditionally male' but that the next generation coming through would be more open minded. I didn't get a chance to run that one past my clients and contacts in the construction sector! We had an interesting discussion around remote working and how it could prove to be negative for women's promotion prospects. It was felt by the group that you do need to be in the office to be noticed. This is certainly an issue to watch. It is a huge generalisation, but the group felt that women tend to lack confidence in their ability and as a result don't push for promotions or salary increases in the way men do. Women also turn down opportunities to speak on panels as they lack confidence and as a result organisers get lambasted for not having enough female speakers. One of our group explained that she had been advised to go through what she described as the ' fear zone' and to push herself outside her comfort zone. This certainly resonated with me. One of my first ever speaking engagements was to chair the FT commercial real estate conference. I don't think I had previously chaired an event so this was quite a long way beyond my comfort zone. But Liz Peace, then Chief Executive of the British Property Federation, had told me they needed a chair for day two of the conference and why didn't I do it. There were probably many reasons not to do it, but I did it. Although it was a terrifying experience with a whole day of top-level panels with senior industry experts, public speaking was easy after that baptism of fire! It was also suggested that the government should give credits for childcare to help women to get back to work as childcare is currently prohibitively expensive. The group acknowledged that, as challenging as it is for women, it's not always easy to be a man in a #MeToo world. That would be a fascinating topic for another discussion!
When I was invited to cohost the Town Hall: What Next in UK Housing? conference wrap-up session, alongside BBC journalist Mark Easton, I thought it sounded like a great idea. It was billed as a rapid-fire, moderated discussion covering key issues and learnings from the two-day conference. As the event drew closer, I wondered if co-hosting with one of the most prominent award-winning BBC journalists was perhaps a step too far! In the event Easton, always the ultimate professional, was a joy to work with. We mapped out our key questions for our excellent panel (Raquel Queral, The Green LandLady, Joseph Daniel of Elixr, Tim Heatley, Co-founder Capital & Centric, Clare Miller, CEO Clarion Housing Group, Charlotte Constance, Founder & MD of Conductor, Michael Swiszczowski of Chapman Taylor) and divided the questions between us. We had a spirited and thought-provoking discussion and my main fear in the end was that Easton might fall off the stage as, with our six seated panellists, there was little room for manoeuvre.
That’s it for this year and I look forward to seeing what next year's RESI 360 will bring.