The representation of black women within the real estate industry is very low. The #IAMWOMAN campaign aims to raise awareness of the industry and attract young black women into it, as well as retain the few women already in it. As an industry Madison Berkeley believes we must ensure that the future built environment in this country reflects the society in which we live. As part of the #IAMWOMAN we meet 5 black women working in Real Estate.
I was born and grew up in Lewisham, prospects there were not great for young people of colour. My family ethic was if you work hard you will succeed and I managed to get a scholarship to Blackheath High School, from there I went to Brunel University.
I always had my head in a book as a kid and was always asking my mum weird questions like what is a recession? Leaving school I decided I wanted to change the world and thought the diplomatic service would allow me to do that. At the same time, I love work where I know the full picture, and think authority should always be open to being questioned. So when I underwent a personality test as part of the process it unfortunately highlighted that acting without questions was not a strength of mine. For the diplomatic service this is quite important obviously! So it was back to the drawing board.
I can talk to computers, I know what they are saying, I like numbers and I like playing games and winning! So, I applied for a finance role at a construction company. At the interview they told me they were also hiring for a quantity surveyor and would I be interested? I didn’t have a clue what a quantity surveyor was. When I discovered they estimate and control costs for large building projects, I realised that was the job for me. I would walk into the office in my heels and quickly change into my work boots and head to the site. I loved it. I was one of only 3 women on site at the time. No one realised they had to take me seriously until I told them to get their hard hats on!
For personal reasons I then had a work break to care for someone I was close to. As they got better I decided to ease myself back into the world of work gently. I applied for a couple of weeks work experience at JLL as I just needed to get back into the work environment before deciding what to do next. That two weeks of work experience turned into 6 years. I qualified as a valuation surveyor by doing my APC qualification (which means I am an RICS qualified surveyor) alongside my valuation work. I am now an Investment Manager at Landsec which means I help us grow the investment we have made in property. I see our portfolio in numbers and map out how we will perform when we add services to improve the experience of our guests, or adopt goals like our Net Zero Carbon commitment. Then I tell the story of the value we can achieve so we can decide when to buy, sell or develop a building.
One of the best moments of my career was turning the old BHS building in Lewisham into an H+M. I was born in Lewisham and grew up there. One day the lights went off – they were back on in minutes, and a voice reassured us from speakers overhead. I wondered how they did that so smoothly – like magicians. Standing outside it 20 years later with my mum, having turned what is quite an iconic and well known building on the high street into another well known current retailer, felt like a proud moment. It showed how far I had come.
I want to see more young women of colour in this industry. When I was starting out I didn’t have any role models in the industry that looked like me. I want to create a diverse real estate workforce so that diversity isn’t even a thing anymore. This is an industry for everyone. If you want to find out more about the opportunities available to you, talk to us at BWRE and Madison Berkeley to see how we can help.