Many years ago, I was fortunate enough to be the Executive Director of UDIA in Western Australia and was approached by a chapter from ‘the eastern states’ to start Women in Property in WA.
I baulked at the idea, as the Western Australian chapter of UDIA was highly inclusive of women as well as younger professionals. We decided to support the inauguration of Outlook for Young Industry Professionals instead.
Fast forward a few years and I find myself working within the property industry in Melbourne, for and with developers, project marketers and builders.
Before I share my insights with you about what went on 15 years ago, I’d like to go back to an early part of my career when I was required to leave my company car at the office to be used by others when I went on leave. Fair enough. But strangely, my male colleagues were not required to do the same. I also took on extra responsibilities with no salary increase. The role was finally split into two, with the new person not lasting very long. The responsibility came back to me and when I asked for a pay increase, I was told I was lucky that my salary didn’t get reduced when they ‘had to pay’ someone else.
Back to Melbourne. I observed that on most Fridays, my male colleagues would come to the office for a few hours and then go to an industry golf day or either the Property Council or UDIA lunch. Why were the invitations never extended to their female colleagues? I used to wonder if it would be acceptable for me to get a group of women together and go to a fashion parade on the company dime and time.
For those of you who know me, I am no shrinking violet so took the issue to the GM. Thankfully, he supported extending the lunch invitation to other staff as long as they took a client. The boys were not that happy.
Because I don’t learn quickly, I also took on another very large role without negotiating a pay increase first. For 18 months I did the equivalent of two roles and by the end I was burnt out and angry. I had saved them a considerable about of money and had to ask for compensation. They gave me $5,000.
Back to Women in Property. Once I saw the different treatment, heard about the significant pay discrepancies and experienced the boys club first hand, I decided to join Women in Property and was honoured to be its Chair for a period of time. Last year I was part of the mentoring program.
What I realised is that there needs to be a place where women in the property industry can feel safe, be mentored and share war wounds.
For what it’s worth, here are some thoughts for young woman starting their property career:
- Know your worth. Before taking on extra responsibilities, negotiate the new pay deal. Or reject the offer.
- Learn how to negotiate a pay increase without squirming.
- Seek feedback from people you admire.
- Learn how to accept constructive criticism early on in your career so your ‘failings’ are not a surprise to you at 40.
- Invest in yourself. Don’t expect your employer to be responsible for all your professional development.
- Create an annual list of goals. Some short term, some longer term. Put a plan in place to achieve them. Celebrate when you can cross one off.
- Put yourself out of your comfort zone every year.
- Never, ever, ever compromise your values.
What advice can you share for International Women’s Day?