Emma Whitby-Smith, Head of Investment at Residential Land talks to Estate Gazette about diversity within the property industry.
When I first started in the property industry 30 years ago, diversity on any scale didn’t really exist, or if it did, it wasn’t high on the list of management priorities.
Any industry that is reliant on building relationships needs people who are representative and have a broad mix of gender, sexual orientation, race, religion, personalities and opinions. Thankfully, on the whole, the working environment has changed in a positive way in the past ten years. While there is always scope for improvement there is certainly broader diversity at senior levels in the property industry.
But diversity is not a buzzword. There is a difference between “complying” and truly understanding. Nobody wants to be viewed as a token individual within a company.
Employers should understand that employee welfare is a priority, and should review company policy regularly and engage with employees at all levels to improve working relationships. An individual who feels accepted, included and understood will in turn be happier and feel more valued. Understanding business is understanding people.
The London property industry is embracing diversity and companies are taking huge steps to introduce and improve diversity programmes. Freehold’s work has been a game-changer. The LGBT property networking group holds monthly events hosted by industry giants such as British Land, Savills, Cluttons, JLL, Shaftesbury and RICS, to name but a few. These respected companies understand that diversity is not about fixing a problem – it is about ensuring business sustainability and improved performance.
I can of course, only comment on the London property scene; other areas in the UK are sadly not as progressive. It is even worse in other countries.
While my sexuality doesn’t define me, it is absolutely an integral part of who I am and it is an enormous relief I can be honest about the fact I have a long-term female partner with my colleagues and associates. Twenty-five years ago, I would have thought twice about being so open for fear of prejudiced assumptions or worse.
People have been discriminated against, and sadly continue to be so, for no other reason than for being different. I have the support of my chief executive, who values my contribution to the company and respects me for who I am. He recognises that a one-size-fits all approach to managing people does not achieve fairness and equality for everyone.
People have different needs, values and beliefs. Good management demands fairness and equality but also flexibility and inclusiveness.
Read the article on the Estates Gazette website here.