Jo Williams BW 2018

It was great to read Sarah Beth Riley’s piece in Building this month on just how vital ongoing support is for ensuring her generation sticks with the industry. So, how do we keep these young, talented women interested? 

It is a fact that, by mid-career, the talent pipeline is more than prone to leaking, which is when the main drain happens and some of our highly skilled and educated women reluctantly decide they have better prospects in other careers, or cannot balance their chosen career with other responsibilities.

Every woman who leaves the industry at this stage, is one less senior woman later contributing at the highest level and that isn’t good for business.

We already know that a clear career path, training and mentoring are really important…and this is where those senior women come in. They have the breadth and depth, the ‘real life’, role model experience, that could make the critical difference to a younger woman. They are in a unique position to offer guidance and direction to those who already have a few years under their belt but might be floundering at mid-career. The problem is, we don’t have enough of them. Certainly not as mentors.

Anyone who has been involved in Mentoring will extol its virtues. The relationship should be one of friendly counsel, mutual respect and trust and, as Sandi Rhys Jones, Women in Property’s Mentoring Lead, puts it “…it’s about showing them the ropes – and helping them climb them.”

It’s not a one-way process though - mentors benefit too. Many talk about the value of refreshing their own experiences and knowledge and also gaining an understanding of a younger viewpoint and skills, as well as the satisfaction of helping a fellow professional to realise their potential.

This isn’t just about women; senior men, your influence is invaluable too. Everyone can endorse a climate that supports mentoring, training and professional development for all and ensure a company culture that understands the pitfalls of unconscious bias. An honest, trusting work environment will reap dividends for both parties, in terms of loyalty, staff retention and the bottom line.

This was reported by McKinsey last year in expanded research which found that companies in the top quartile for gender diversity on their executive teams were 21% more likely to experience above average profitability than those in the fourth quartile.

Hence encouraging a strong pipeline of women through business is good for retention and good for business.

In September, in my capacity as National Chairman of Women in Property, I had the privilege of hosting our National Student Awards Dinner at Claridge’s. Having met these inspirational young women, on the brink of entering a career in our industry, the thought of possibly losing them in a few years’ time is nonsensical.

So, senior women – you are needed! If you’re not already doing so, I urge you to consider mentoring a younger woman, share the benefit of your experience, whether formally through a mentoring programme like ours, or informally. Neither should be onerous, both can be as simple as a cup of coffee or a phone call from time to time. Helping someone to grow in confidence and stature could well be the difference between them staying, or becoming a sad loss to the industry.

Jo Williams is national chair of Women in Property and building surveying partner at Sanderson Weatherall