Gender equality in real estate is hard to achieve because women “seem to be less comfortable” with confrontation.
Graeme Eadie, senior managing director at Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, said his company was striving for an equal gender balance but said that the industry was not an easy one for women to navigate.
Panelists at the British Property Federation conference on Wednesday were asked by BBC journalist Naga Munchetty if they thought their companies would be more successful with more women in senior positions.
Eadie said: “Within real estate, what we find is women seem to be less comfortable in confrontational situations. Now that’s a broad statement.
“But more importantly, when they do start a family, they can’t deal with the travel. So they crawl back to asset management roles or something where they can control when they are in the office.
“It’s a tough issue, but we’re doing our best and finding roles that will fit with their lifestyle,” he added.
Another panellist, Wolfgang Egger, chief executive of Patrizia Immobilien AG, blamed cultural differences for the lack of women in senior roles.
“The personnel in our company are 60% women, but in the leading position we only have one woman, who is leading the Nordics, because it depends on the system in their country,” Egger said.
“In France, for example, women give birth, have children, and go to work. In Germany, they don’t do that. That’s what restricts them from growing into leader positions.”
However, Egger emphasised that a balanced boardroom was preferable to an all-male one, saying: “People get straighter to the point if a woman is sitting there. If there’s just men sitting around, we all play with our egos.”
The panel followed a keynote speech by Leigh Gallagher, assistant manager editor of Fortune. She stressed: “If I leave you with one actionable point today, it is to promote women across your companies.”