Written by Makafui Kuffo. This write-up is dedicated to Mrs. Naa Lamikai Adofo: CEO of AnL Valuation & Property Consult and VES Rep of Women in Surveying. I watch how you effortlessly combine your role as a woman with your profession in real estate, constantly defying the societal standards and misconceptions about women in real estate, and pursuing what you aim to achieve. You are world-changer!
In a world that is characterised by male-dominance in the professional circus, so many misconceptions exist about female professionals. While male dominance seems to be generalised in the professional world, the intensity of this varies widely across sectors. The real estate sector is one of those sectors that is highly male-dominated. From my early days of career pursuit in real estate, I have always found myself in male-dominated environments; from being among the few girls in my undergraduate class, to being the only female national service personnel in my office. I have literally found myself working on projects, where I was either the only lady or among the few ladies working. I nearly assumed this was a thing that only existed in Africa till I started my masters outside of Africa. Again, I found myself in a class of fewer women than men. I have experienced biases and unacceptable behaviours in the sector which I believe are as a result of certain misconceptions about women in Real Estate. Several misconceptions exist about women in real estate which have restrained many young ladies from pursuing careers in real estate. The effects of these misconceptions manifest in employment discrimination, professional discrimination, position discrimination, discrimination in the access to training, and worse of all; pay discrimination.
Here are 7 common misconceptions about women in the real estate sector:
- Women cannot balance work and domestic affairs well enough:
Women are believed to be less efficient in the workplace due to the extra responsibilities they take up at home aside work responsibilities. This constrains women in terms of access to equal opportunities.
- Women are less flexible when the need arises to travel for work purposes:
The nature of the real estate profession requires travelling from time to time. In the area of valuation, female surveyors may be required to travel for compensation valuations in other regions and sometimes outside the country. It is however believed that women cannot conveniently travel as they have families to cater for.
- Sexual harassment limits the performance of female real estate professionals:
Female real estate professionals are exposed to the risk of being sexually harassed. There have been cases where female real estate agents were raped or sexually harassed at site inspections. This tends to leave so many people with the perception that female real estate professionals have limited scopes of operating in the profession.
- Women cannot work well as partners for real estate firms:
There is another general belief that female real estate partners are less efficient as they are less flexible with time arrangements for the work schedules of real estate roles.
- Women lack leadership qualities:
In a typical African society women rarely take up leadership roles. This perception is deeply rooted in an old tradition of female submission to the male counterpart. The effect of this is still felt in the world today as women are still believed to lack leadership roles. Even when women attain leadership roles, they tend to be ‘bossy’.
- Women have poor work ethics (lateness to work and absenteeism):
Due to the dual roles women take up, female real estate professionals are believed to have poor work ethics. From time to time, female realtors might want to take permissions to send their kids to the hospital and be late to work because they have to send kids to school before arriving at work.
- Women lack the strength to practice the profession:
Women are generally perceived to lack the strength to practice the profession as the profession may sometimes require some form of physical strength to climb hills, walk through forests, among others in a bid to collect data for real estate appraisals. In spite of all these general beliefs about women in real estate, I personally believe that these are only misconceptions.
The dual responsibility of women in no way limits the efficiency of women in the profession. Professional bodies are constantly creating divisions for women that equip women with skills to efficiently practice the profession through workshops, seminars and capacity building. The world is gradually changing and real estate firms all over the world are including policies to promote the efficiency of women in the profession. Today, females who have taken up top leadership roles in the real estate sector have proved that some of these misconceptions are untrue. They include the likes of Dr. Mrs. Matilda Fiadzigbey who was the first female President of the Ghana Institution of Surveyors, Surveyor Mrs. Yvonne Sowah and several others. Companies who include women in top leadership roles are seeing great results in terms of performance as this means a diversity of ideas at top leadership positions. The need for the inclusion of Corporate Social Responsibility in company strategies has seen increasing importance. With all of these, the role of women in the real estate profession is increasingly becoming significant.