To Solve PropTech Gender Gap We Must Embrace Complexity
By Abi Rendle, Strategic Account Manager, Equiem
There is a vocal push towards narrowing the gender gap at the top of the Property industry. But to achieve anything approaching equal representation, we must dive deeper than the surface.
The way things look is not always the way things are. That’s something that most of us are able to accept. But, accepting it and proactively taking steps to uncover the true state of play are two very different things.
60% of my team at Equiem are female, including the CEO, COO and Head of UK. In some ways, this has been comforting when thinking about the PropTech Gender Gap and feeling like we’re doing our bit. However, it’s probably made me feel too comfortable and I haven’t truly reflected on the complexity of the issue at hand across the industry. I’m sure others are in the same boat.
It’s very easy for us to sit back and feel confident that the efforts we’re making and seeing are the right changes and are moving us towards gender equality. But is it enough?
So many of the visible elements do appear to be going in the right direction. For example, we have seen a real increase in the number of women participating in industry panels, keynote presentations, high-ranking positions and heightened PR. I’d go as far as to say it’s widely understood that all male panels are not acceptable anymore.
So all good then? We’re making progress. Well, these headlines are just what we see and we’ve already established that the way things look is not always the way things are.
It doesn’t give a true insight into the depth of the problem. Without a doubt we still massively lack equality and diversity in proptech, and it’s probably a bit uncomfortable to think about what more we could be doing.
Looking at the data, women only make up approximately 10% of PropTech business founders globally. This issue isn’t exclusive to PropTech. It pervades every area of the tech industry. If we look at the big tech organisations, women still only represent about 26.7% of the workforce – a number that has actually decreased over the last two years. And those numbers look even more dismal when we extend our view to representation of ethnically diverse communities.
When we look at the statistics of females in education, female students account for approximately 35% of STEM students. That figure drops to only 19% in the fields of computer science, engineering, and technology.
If we start to dig a little deeper it becomes clear that representation is more complex than filling executive roles with females and bringing an end to the all male panel.
Filling quotas at the top only addresses part of this issue when it comes to equal representation, and could have the unintended consequence of making disparities seem narrower than they actually are.
If we look at funding, just one of many other lenses to look at the issue through, and ask the question; how many female founders do we actually have in the industry? You will see there’s a significant disparity between female and male founders. Although in 2022 we have again seen progress in this space, there is still a significant gap in the proportion of investment in UK tech firms that goes to male founded organisations vs female founders.
WIthout the right investment and funding programmes available to women, it’s going to be a problem that persists whereby there are less opportunities for female founders to start a business successfully.
To offer some financial perspective on a wider scale, The Rose Review of Female Entrepreneurship found that £250 billion could be added to the UK economy if women could start and build businesses at the same rate as men.
In order to fix inequalities that pervade every part of the tech and property industries, we must ensure we are creating remedies at every level.
Hiring practices must be overhauled to ensure that there is appropriate representation at every level of the industry. If we are willing to cultivate underrepresented professionals at every step of the process, we may eventually live in a world where the makeup of investment funding, for example, mirrors the progress made of our publicly facing industry panels.
Education will have the most prominent impact on increasing diversity in technology, this is where we start thinking about who we want to be and what we want to do. We must combat stereotypes and misconceptions of which careers females ‘should’ pursue which impact children at a young age. We need to drive greater awareness for jobs in tech and the opportunities available to females, whilst also offering hands-on experience in the form of internships and workshops.
Not only this, but mentorship for women needs to be encouraged too – we are so susceptible to others opinions and can be greatly influenced at such a young age, so it’s an opportunity to provide greater exposure to jobs in technology to females either in schools or university but also to those working in other industries exploring different career paths.
And lastly, gender equality and diversity should be more than just performance. Greater representation on stage is great, but it should be within the culture and values of all companies. We all need to be mindful of this and implement initiatives in companies to genuinely own and fix this complex problem.
We must not be afraid to meet this complex problem with complex solutions and proactively challenge the way things look on the surface.
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