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.
Kemi Oguntoye is 33 and is an Associate Surveyor (MRICS) at SAY Property Consulting LLP. She lives in London.
I grew up in Woolwich, SE London. I didn’t have the motivation or confidence to do the 11+ to get into a grammar school. At my secondary school (Blackheath Bluecoat Church of England), a male friend in my class was outraged that I had been left out of the young, gifted and talented programme. He didn’t think it was for him, but he could see I wanted to join and he encouraged me to speak to my teacher about being included. I got in and on leaving had a second opportunity to apply to Bexley Grammar School, this time to do my A-levels. I then went to Loughborough University where I got a first class honours degree in Business, Economics and Finance.
I didn’t come from a property background and I knew little about it growing up. Woolwich wasn’t very well connected in terms of transport when I was younger and it often felt a bit forgotten. We always passed through Canary Wharf when we visited relatives, which was glossy and beautiful with buildings that seemed so exciting. Then the Olympics came to our corner of London and suddenly there was lots of regeneration and investment and it made a big difference to my community. During university, I did a sandwich placement where I worked for the Greater London Authority in the Housing Team. That introduction to policy rekindled my interest in the built environment. After that I applied for the Mountbatten Internship in New York with the bank UBS and I ended up in the treasury team looking after assets.
When I came back from New York the Olympics were finishing and I saw that even more infrastructure had been built in Woolwich. It made such a difference to the community and their wellbeing. I decided I wanted to be a part of it and approached several recruitment companies. I found a role where my bosses invested in my training on the job and in a classroom. I studied for a masters in financial real estate and then completed my APC, which means I am a qualified surveyor (MRICS). I now provide strategic asset management advice to our clients. I ensure that the vision a landlord or developer has for their buildings can be operationally achieved and that it is financially and legally sustainable. I take into account what future residents are going to want from a building or development to make it a great space. I consider how the developer wants their building to function and feel and advise on how to make this practical for everyone, so it’s financially and operationally viable in the long term.
Property is all about communication. If you are interested in working in this industry and you are not sure where to start (like I was) my advice to you is to go out and meet people in the industry. Build a network, ask questions, be curious, remain interested. Whatever your interests, there is a role within real estate for you. You can learn on the job, you learn from clients, stakeholders and there are apprenticeships. You do not always need a University degree to get into property and real estate and you certainly do not need to study a real estate specific course to do well. I want to ensure that all young women understand that there is a place for them in this industry as well as great prospects. I get to work on exciting new developments that I hope will improve the communities they are based in and I feel like I make a positive difference.
Don’t be put off if you think you don’t see people who look like you in the industry, we are here. Organisations such as BWRE will support you in building a career as well as real estate recruitment firms like Madison Berkeley who can guide and help you find the right roles to suit your interests .