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AU Western Australia's power women of property

Property Here - Monday, May 13, 2013

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Debra Goostrey

Debra Goostrey is CEO of the Urban Development Institute of Australia WA division. Picture: The Sunday Times.Source: PerthNow

HALF the people working in Western Australia's real estate sector are women, but this wasn't always the case.

Jennie Bryant was one of the first women agents in WA when she started in 1972.

Now a principal of her own agency and a Real Estate Institute of WA councillor, Mrs Bryant said there was a lot of opposition to women in the industry when she started.

"The public were shocked when you knocked on their door and they opened up and saw a woman," she said.

"There was a lot of, ‘Where’s your boss, sweetie?’, and the other agents didn’t take you seriously.

"But I was pretty stubborn and I wasn’t going to let anything stop me."

These days, some of real estate’s top positions are held by women.

They head the WA branch of the Urban Development Institute of Australia, the Heritage Council and the Committee of Perth think tank.

Women are also represented on the boards of Landgate, REIWA, the WA branch of the Australian Institute of Architects, the WA branch of the Australian Property Institute and the Metropolitan Redevelopment Authority.

Yet, despite the noticeable increase of women in influential roles and in the property workforce, they are still underrepresented in some roles and sectors, and overrepresented in others.

Last year 97 per cent of real estate agency receptionists were women, while just 20 per cent of valuers were females, Workplace Gender Equality Agency 2012 figures show.

Only 2 per cent of agency chief executives were women.

The number of women and men studying architecture last year was almost equal, but only 20 per cent of registered architects in Australia were women.

Architecture and the building industry also recorded the worst pay discrepancy between female and male graduates in their first year out of university.

In line with these figures, some of property’s power women noticed the gender inequity in the industry, while others had never found it an issue.

Mrs Bryant said her recipe for success was stubbornness and sheer determination.

Her advice to young women was put the client first, work hard, find a mentor to talk to and socialise a lot.

"There were no role models for women when I started," she said.

"But my first boss, John Davies the founder of Acton, used to say ‘when you’ve got nothing to do, call someone up and go have coffee’ and ‘never take no for an answer’."

Anne Arnold
Heritage Council deputy chairwoman, EX CEO OF REIWA AND UDIA
Q What was the property industry like for women when you started?
I didn’t think about it much, to be honest. A lot of women were running the industry at that time in admin jobs and as secretaries. There were a few women in the industry; lawyers with an interest in property and a few in government. Most developers were men, and so were the engineers and the planners.
But I didn’t find it a drama and I had flexi hours which was great because I had teenagers at the time.

Q How has the industry changed?
There are a lot of key roles taken by women now Marion Fulker at the Committee of Perth, Debra Goostrey at the UDIA. I’m not sure how it is for the architects and planners. I suspect it’s a bit different, but there are quite a few on the Heritage Council board and the board at Landgate.
REIWA is interesting because when I was there, there were never as many women on the board. The real estate industry is almost half women and yet it is not reflected in the governing body.

Q What’s your recipe for success?
I just got in and did a job. I put one foot in front of the other and a lot of the time I was in the right place at the right time. And I just like working. Work is very redemptive.

Q What is your advice for young women entering the property industry?
If they’re serious about it, then perhaps look at land economics and how we settle cities. I think that’s an area that’s underdone. And just believe that you can do it. Just keep on keeping on. Also, be smart about when you have kids so you don’t lose your edge.

Andrea Constable
Australian Property Institute WA Division vice president and Curtin University lecturer in PROPERTY STUDIES
Q What made you get into property?
Our built environment has such an impact on our lives I wanted to have an involvement in improving the space in which we live.
I worked in London for an architectural practice who mostly built health care and institutional buildings. When I came back I felt more interested in the dollars and cents side.

Q What other roles do you have at the moment?
I am a Member of the Sustainable and Affordable Housing Research Group within Curtin’s Australian Sustainable Development Institute.
I also have two young children and I’m just about build a new house.

Q What were some of the key challenges for you?
One of the challenges is juggling family and work, but that’s a challenge for all fields.
Another challenge is knowing what you want to specialise in. Property is such a broad field. There are plenty of opportunities.

Q What is the property industry like for women these days, and how has it changed?
When I was studying it was 50/50 in architecture, there was never any discrepancy due to gender, and in my students now there is 70/30 men and women.

Q What advice would you give to young women who want to go into the industry?
One of the most important things in this industry is to network. Get the contacts of other students in your classes and stay in touch.

Debra Goostrey
Urban Development Institute of Australia WA Division chief executive
Q Why did you get into the property industry?
I’m more in the public administration industry. I worked as a representative in the heavy vehicles industry before I was at the UDIA.

Q How has the urban development industry changed for women?
There are growing numbers of women in the industry. We see lots of women in some sectors and not in others. There are lots of women in environmental planning, and we’re seeing growing numbers in engineering and project management. Female CEOs are still statistically light on the ground, but there are some. I am noticing more women coming to industry events and networking.

Q Has it got easier for women in general?
The challenge women have today is different. For the women in my age group, there wasn’t anything like what there is now. Now there are childcare centres and after school care all of those things were not available when my kids were young. There wasn’t a social expectation on me to work. There was no expectation to be happy and successful at work and at home. When we looked for our first house, my wage wasn’t considered by the bank because I might have got pregnant.

Q Who are your role models?
Kerry Sanderson, who was CEO of Freo Ports when I knew her. She was never ruffled, was always in control and had grace in the work place. Sue Murphy, the CEO of Watercorp, is the same.

Kelly Rattigan
Formworks MD, Australian Institute of Architects WA division councillor and THE INSTITUTE’S 2012 EMERGING ARCHITECT OF THE YEAR
Q What made you get into property?
My great great grandfather was the chief architect of WA from 1917 to 1927. He had plans to sink the railway in Perth and build a Parisian style boulevard where the Northbridge link will be. It’s nice to see his dreams coming to fruition. When you hear about someone like that who’s a bit exciting, that gives you some idea.

Q What is the industry like for women and how has that changed?
I think the industry has shifted marginally. Women are a lot more vocal now.

Q Who are your role models?
Lynne Evans, the past CEO of St Barts. She loves taking risks for a good purpose, that’s how you innovate and it’s the key to a good CEO.
Veronica Rodenburg, CEO of the Yaandina Family Centre in Roebourne. She would never pull the gender card, she just pushes on through.

Q What have the key challenges been for you as a woman in the industry?
It’s hard to do the family thing without support. I have a very supportive husband who looks after our kids and works two days a week. The most challenging part was being pregnant. I went back to work two weeks after having my kids. But if I considered the obstacles I would come to a grinding halt.

Q Why should young women enter the property industry?
The challenge is great and you get to make a difference.

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