The big challenge for Australian real estate is the ability of its boardroom leaders to be “conscious of the conscious and unconscious bias” that creeps into their decision-making, CEO for property management at Harcourts International Sadhana Smiles has said, because a boardroom full of men is more likely to make a poor decision than a room that is diverse.
Ms Smiles said this is because the room that is diverse is going to be challenging and take on different points of view.
“It is going to question, be flexible and the team is going to take on other points of view,” Ms Smiles told REB.
“They are going to bring diversity of thought and ideas to the table, and that room is always going to be more successful.”
Ms Smiles said the thing that the industry, particularly its male leaders, needs to understand is that the system needs to change.
“The gender diversity/balance is about leaders who are in leadership roles right now, and it is up to us to be hyper aware of the levels of diversity in our business.
“Now you can do that through surveys, you can do that through just looking at your business and the types of people you have working there. Then you need to set really deliberate targets around what levels of diversity do you want to achieve and what time frame do you want to achieve it in.”
Ms Smiles referred to a recent McKinsey and PricewaterhouseCoopers survey.
“That survey showed that businesses with a good mix of diversity is 35 per cent more profitable than those that are not. Also, that 86 per cent of female Millennials — who are the next generation — assess the businesses diversity and inclusion program before they even apply for a job with you.”
Ms Smiles said that, if the industry is intent on becoming more professional and wants to attract more professional people, it needs to take diversity seriously.
She said that what has worked so far isn’t going to help the industry going into the future.
“Leaders need to make sure we have a talent pipeline and we need to sponsor them into leadership roles,” said Ms Smiles, adding that both men and women have an active role to play in this.
“Be aware of who you’ve got in your business and how do you sponsor them up the ladder because, sometimes, women need men to crack that glass ceiling, they cannot do it on their own.”
She also said that simply recruiting more women isn’t the answer.
“You’ve got to have a culture in your business that engages and accepts diversity, and be careful of just going down the path of saying, ‘well, we just need to hire more women’, because that is not going to work either,” Ms Smiles warned.
“For diversity to thrive, we need businesses that are inclusive and have the right structures for diversity to thrive. And there is no playbook for this in real estate. There just isn’t. We can’t go in and say one brand is doing really well and we have got to follow what they are doing.”