By Maria Wiedner
The inspiring entrepreneur Natasha Stromberg once wrote in one of her LinkedIn posts: “Leaders are those who jump in front” and she tagged me. And so I did! Here is a blog about my ‘jumping in front’ with Real Estate Women in Madrid on 12th April 2018.
The idea for an event in Madrid was brewing in November 2017. Virgina Perez Nieto based in Madrid was very keen to connect female industry leaders from both the Spanish and UK real estate market. I hesitated, because other than speaking South American (heavily Argentinian accented) Spanish, I had limited knowledge about the Spanish real estate market. Remembering Natasha’s words, I decided to take the plunge and ‘jump in’.
We brought in an audience of 50 people in the room to discuss the property markets in Spain, highlighting gender issues and addressing solutions to overcome them.
The property markets in Spain are back on the radar of global property investors with many international private equity institutions heavily investing in sectors like hotels, retail, logistics and office, as property in Spain is still cheap vis a vis its European counterparts. The gender debate focused on women achieving leadership positions and we had an incredible debate with our speakers:
- Silvia Lopez, General Counsel and Secretary of the Board of Directors at Neinor Homes
- Rosario de Castro Perez, Specialist in Business Development, Sales & Marketing
- Cristina Calvo, Partner at Ashurst, Head of Real Estate and Continental Europe
- Carmen Panadero, Director of Business Development at Distrito Castellana Norte, Director of the Masters in Real Estate Development course at IE University
The general consensus was that women’s and men’s issues are different in the workplace. Women in Spain are lagging behind in terms of opportunity for progression given the cultural expectation that women should (still) stay at home to bring up children and thus not pursue a career in real estate or any other industry for that matter.
The evening was fun and lively, resulting in both the panelists and the audience engaged in a hot debate. Here are some anecdotes:
- A Spanish real estate company wanted to send out a job advertisement, asking for women to apply. The mailing list seemed to be huge but they were undeterred because “only the perfect candidates will apply”. The underlying meaning was that women only apply for jobs when they match 120% of the requirements. Tip: Go for jobs even when you don’t have 100% of all requirements.
- When Carmen Panadero was asked to lead the Masters in Real Estate Development course at IE she worried about the added responsibility, but said yes and went for it. She is now fully engaged and confident that she is creating a solid programme.
- As there are so few women in the property industry, it is essential for those who have a position of leadership to give a hand to those starting up, by means of mentoring and sponsoring them – or simply being available for contact and advice.
- Business leaders should enforce diversity when recruiting and ensure they do their best to achieve a team with a 50/50 split between women and men. However, it is equally important to consider wider aspects of diversity such as ethnicity and disability.
- It is not just about being recognised for being a professional woman, but for being a distinguished professional, who can lead by being inclusive and empathetic as well as being analytical.
Both the speakers and audience were hugely inspiring. I am glad and proud that Real Estate Women took the jump. As a result we have opened up a new market for our network, made new friends and started a new partnership that we hope will benefit our members immensely. We are extremely thankful to the support of our local partner Wires.