>How Much Have Things Really Changed for Women

International Women's Day is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women.

This is a time to praise the progress that has been made for women and perhaps to remind ourselves that there is still much to be done.

At Benjamin Stevens Estate Agents, we want to take this opportunity to celebrate the women who play such a large and important part of our team.

Our Managing Director, Steven Wayne started the agency 17 years ago from scratch aged just 22. He has grown and developed the business which now operates with large and successful Sales (Residential and Commercial), Lettings and Property Management departments spread over three branches, and a well-established Block Management practice, and 80 members of staff.

We are so very proud of our history for recruiting, supporting and promoting incredible women into junior, middle management and senior positions across all areas of the company. Half of the Senior Management team (which includes Steven), are women. Out of eight managerial positions within the agency, five of these are also held by women.

Steven says “When I hire people, I hire the best person for that role regardless of gender. I treat my staff like my family and I want them to be invested in the business. To give an example, both of the women in my senior management team are mothers with young children who, unusually for their roles, work part time. They are dedicated, organised, loyal and go above and beyond in their roles within the company.”

Traditionally, the sales industry and particularly the property industry, is a largely male workforce.

Senior Block Manager and Director, Sally Drake has worked in the property industry for over 25 years. She admits “In the old days the top positions were always dominated by men”. In more recent years she has happily seen more and more women rising to the Senior Management level roles. Sally continues “In the past there was a need to work that bit harder to prove yourself to ‘the boys club’ in respect of your knowledge and ability.”

“I have myself experienced being treated differently because I’m as a woman - the male tendency in some cases used be to either patronise, sexualise or demonize female colleagues. You had to learn how to play the game, utilising their stereotypes to your own advantage to achieve the result you were seeking without demeaning yourself.”

Sally says her strongest piece of advice to any woman within the property industry is to show your strengths by remaining calm no matter what you might be facing.

Associate Director, Louisa Felman began working with Steve at Benjamin Stevens in 2011, as an office junior in the company, whilst completing her degree.  She worked her way up to become Steve’s second in command and ‘right-hand woman’!

Louisa says “I have been able to continue working alongside having my two children and love that I can work flexibly whilst also having time at home. I strongly champion working mothers. We have so much to juggle and constantly question whether we are doing all the roles in our lives to the best of our ability. I personally feel that this very struggle makes us that much more organised, efficient and therefore even better at our jobs”.

We also have a number of female Sales Negotiators as part of our team. Manjula Vekaria has been involved in the property industry for 18 years. She agrees that the industry can be very male-dominated but stresses that she has never found this limiting especially when dealing with clients.

She says “I actually notice people are finding it a pleasant surprise to talk to female agents as when purchasing your ideal home, a woman has 90% of the say!”.

Manjula is a Partner Agent under our Hub model where she works on a self-employed basis which allows her to set her own schedule, and targets with the support and backing of the Benjamin Stevens brand. She goes on to say “In my opinion The Hub model is ideal, particularly (but not exclusively for) women. It allows anyone looking to progress in the property market to have the flexibility to manage their diary amongst other business and family commitments”.

It’s fair to say there has been so much progress made within the property industry over recent decades. The general rise of the number of women working in departments other than administration has risen beyond belief and attitudes have changed. However, things mustn’t stop there. We must be mindful of our ever-changing attitudes and behaviour and to continue moving forward towards even more success with regards to women and the way they work and are treated.