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 campaign we meet 5 black women working in Real Estate.
I grew up in Wolverhampton where I went to Primary and Middle School and then onto Codsall High School in Staffordshire to study GCSEs and A – Levels. I then went to the University of Manchester, where I got a first class honours degree in Geography (specialising in human geography – migration, demographics and economics rather than rivers, lakes and the weather!). There were three black students, in my year group, at my high school in Staffordshire. It was a shock as my primary school was roughly a 50-50 split. It actually wasn’t a negative experience but it certainly set me up for life!
Property is a hidden industry. Growing up I had no idea what a career in property meant. At University I had a part time job working for Sainsbury’s and I applied for a summer internship in their buying team at their Head Office in London. I loved the negotiation part of the job and I loved being in retail. As I neared the end of my degree, I started to think about careers and came across Target Property magazine, which doesn’t exist anymore. I realised that I could use my beloved Geography, my interest in architecture and my love for variety (working in an office and on site at properties). I researched all the big property companies and found CBRE. I applied for a graduate surveyor role with them and was initially turned down because I didn’t have any property work experience, but I kept in touch with the HR manager and she was able to find me some work experience. I was then offered a place on their graduate scheme and started a few months after graduating in 2005! I stayed with CBRE for 10 years until I moved to The Crown Estate in 2015.
I studied for a masters in Real Estate Management at South Bank University alongside my job at CBRE who sponsored my studies. This was due to my degree being unrelated to property. I also completed my Assessment of Professional Competence (APC) in order to become a Chartered Property Surveyor and a Member of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (MRICS). I worked in different areas of surveying, at CBRE, until 2007 when I found my niche in retail.
The property industry is not only a people business, it is shaping the future of the world and people’s lives, and this is one of the reasons why diversity is essential. My role at The Crown Estate is Senior Asset Manager, where I lead on the asset management of Fosse Park in Leicester. We have recently added 140,000 square feet of shops and restaurants making it the largest shopping park in England. My job is incredibly varied, and I’m really proud of the work we do with local partners, stakeholders and our occupiers to ensure Fosse Park serves the local community. For example, we worked on the Fosse Recruit initiative with the local jobcentre plus, to encourage our retail and restaurant brands to actively recruit local people. We also worked with local schools and community groups to design the Fosse Foxes art trail, which is now an exciting visitor attraction at both Fosse itself and in the local area.
I know I can make a difference in this industry. The industry is now starting to realise that a balanced and diverse team creates a competitive advantage. When I initially started out in property it was heavily male dominated and, at times, I felt out of place, because I had never played rugby or went skiing, but I stayed confident, kept learning and I knew I could add value.
The industry is beginning to move in the right direction with people entering from all different backgrounds, which is really positive. I look forward to the industry becoming even more diverse and more readily reflective of society. There’s a place in the industry for everyone, and if a career in property is of interest to you, then my advice would be to seek out work experience opportunities and talk to as many people in the industry as possible. You can also connect with BWRE to find out more, and real estate recruiters Madison Berkeley can help you explore options for a career in real estate.