In the recent Global Gender Gap Report 2018 from the World Economic Forum, Singapore came in at a respectable 24th place out of 144 countries when it came to “Economic Participation and Opportunity”. Coming in behind the likes of New Zealand, Thailand, and Lithuania, there is undoubtedly still progress to be made.
The number of women in management positions in Singapore, for example, sits at just 3 in 10 according to a recent report. The lack of women in senior positions can also be seen to correlate with the fall in the number of women who stay in the workplace after marriage, down to 63.6% versus 83.8% of married men.
Narrowing the gender gap isn’t just the right thing to do from a social responsibility perspective. It also makes sense from an economic perspective. Achieving balance for better could add as much as S$26 billion to the Singaporean economy, according to a recent report.
To celebrate International Women’s Day 2019 we recently brought together a mixed panel from across the Singapore business to discuss their experiences around pursuing a more equitable workplace for all.
June Chua, Executive Director, Head of Leasing, Cushman & Wakefield
Robin Ho, Senior Assistant Engineer, Global Technology Solutions, Cushman & Wakefield
Christie Fernandez, Workplace Safety & Health Officer, Cushman & Wakefield
How well is progress being made towards gender equality in the real estate industry?
June Chua: Singapore has a highly educated workforce, and women have equal opportunity in their education. While studying real estate in school, the male-female ratio was quite balanced and I’ve never felt that women will lose out in getting an employment in the real estate industry upon graduation. It helps that there are various types of occupations available in the real estate industry, and women do have a choice in whether they want to be a valuer, marketing agent, project manager, property manager, quantity surveyor and so on when they enter the workforce. Thereafter, I do believe that most hiring is based on merits, the right fit for the job, and experience, and not gender.
Robin Ho: In Singapore, being a multi-racial and cultural society, I feel that we are rather gender friendly toward hiring. A great example of this is the leasing team in our Samsung Hub office constitutes a workforce that is over 90% women. As an IT professional within our company, our day to day operations involves regular interaction with staff. I have noticed an significant increase in female candidates filling in operational and business roles in both facilities management and across the real estate business over the years.
Christie Fernandez: The real estate industry have done well in demonstrating that gender equality really is possible, even in industries thought of as quite male dominated. There’s been a tremendous increase in the number of women in the real estate industry, although we can still see positions which are mostly taken up by men, i.e. lift and escalator maintenance. As an organisation that promotes gender equality, our leaders should encourage the building up of capabilities among women who are willing to step out of their comfort zone and take on new challenges.
How are approaches to women in real estate leadership changing?
Christie Fernandez: We are seeing a shift from the male-dominated industry to a gender-equal one. In the years that I have been in the real estate industry, I have seen a number of women who were hired directly into the business in leadership roles. The capabilities of women and the new perspectives that they are able to bring to leadership roles are now increasingly being recognised. It is important that the business continues to support not only leadership opportunities for women outside of the business, but also leadership pathways for women currently serving in more junior roles.
June Chua: The Singapore real estate industry has a good number of women leaders successfully heading up different teams. Again, it is a case of who is the best fit for the role, and what is her personal goal, whether she would step into a leadership role when the opportunity arises. There is a confidence issue at play here, something that the business should continue to nurture as women move up through the hierarchy. Real estate businesses can also help support female leadership through HR policies including maternity leave and flexible and remote working.
What have you done to help create “balance for better” within Cushman & Wakefield?
Robin Ho: My personal belief is that “balance for better” means fostering better relationships and maintaining a healthy body, both physically and mentally. During my course of work in Samsung Hub office, I’ve been involved in organising regular runs after work with participants from across departments. With both men and women involved it has proved to be a great bonding session.
Christie Fernandez: I am in the field of Health, Safety, Security & Environment (HSSE). The workplace health and safety profession is known to be dominated by males, with most of the positions are operational and on the ground. To cite some examples, people often have the impression that women cannot and will not climb up cat ladders to carry out safety inspection and audits. By taking up such a position here at Cushman & Wakefield, I have demonstrated that men and women are equally capable, with women perfectly able to perform tasks that are usually done by men.
June Chua: Our female colleagues juggle many roles as employees, daughters, wives, and mothers. Similarly our male colleagues have their different roles to contend with too. Most of my colleagues would really like to be able to give as much to each of these roles as possible. Cushman & Wakefield has introduced a flexible working arrangement for employees to work from home at times if the need arises. I have eulogised this policy amongst my team, helping my colleagues to better manage their personal needs and yet continue to contribute to the firm.
What advice would you give to women joining the real estate industry for the first time?
Christie Fernandez: Being in a fast-phased industry, women in real estate should ensure that they keep abreast of new developments in the market and be ready to take on new opportunities and challenges that come their way. It is important that we keep our eyes open and be willing to accept changes and respond fast to new possibilities.
June Chua: For someone who is joining the industry for the first time, I would recommend taking the time to get a firm understanding of the work requirements and to set realistic but ambitious expectations. As with any jobs, there are fun moments and there are challenging moments. Ask for a mentor if you can, or request for a buddy on the team who can help ease you into the role.
Robin Ho: Seize the opportunity and do not let gender be an obstacle in deciding what you can achieve. The real estate industry is going through a period of significant change, and it is an incredibly exciting time to get involved and make your mark.
To find out more about Cushman & Wakefield’s activities across Asia Pacific this International Women’s Day, check out our dedicated page here.