With the rise of new and mega developments every day in Egypt, a career in real estate now presents diverse possibilities for any professional flowchart. However, breaking into the real estate field is not easy, especially for women, despite proving their value in the business environment. Invest-Gate interviews a number of leading and successful female professionals in the real estate brokerage, marketing, and public relations (PR) fields to know more about the gains and hurdles of working in this challenging sector.
Is Real Estate a Cakewalk for Females?
For ages, real estate was known to be a male-dominated world. However, with the sector getting more accepting and competitive, there has been increased participation of female professionals in the field, which still comes with a number of challenges. Most female professionals agree that success has never been easy.
Marketing Director at Tatweer Misr Aida Kabil notes:
“As any other field, the real estate market is full of challenges, especially that the level of competition is constantly increasing.”
Director of Corporate Communication and PR at City Edge Developments Alia El Nagdi sees that
It is effortful to make a career in a man’s world (i.e real estate) because it is a tough industry and requires a vigorous character.
Mariem Alsoud, head of marketing at La Mirada, underlines other challenges include:
“Fear of failure, taking responsibilities for any big event, and risks that comes with introducing new concepts.”
Speaking of more hurdles in the real estate market, Ghada Shaker, Tatweer Misr’s executive PR director, says:
“My experience in the industry was incredibly challenging at the beginning for I had to build the company’s PR department and corporate brand perception from scratch.”
“Most of those challenges are present, not only in society, but in our own beliefs; we limit ourselves – in many cases – to our way of thinking about how we should act compared to others.”
Within the same context, according to Marketing Director at Castle Development Reham El Sobky:
Another challenge is balancing between the professional and personal lives. “As a woman, I would say it is even harder sometimes especially when you have to care for a family. The pressure can get very intense at times.”
What Hinders Women From Advancement?
Although the International Financial Corporation (IFC), World Bank’s (WB) arm for private sector financing, reported on March 2018 that Egypt’s gross domestic product (GDP) could soar 32% if gender equality was achieved in the labor market, interviewed female professionals are divided on whether the real estate is a male-dominated field or not, with most of them believe that it is a man’s world.
According to Abeer Salah, VP operations and deputy CEO at Coldwell Banker New Homes:
“One reason for this prevailing belief is the “advancement limitations that lead to diminishing the leadership roles for women as they are usually hired for executive roles only.”
Both El Sobky and Fawkia El Awadi, group director of marketing and communications at Catalyst Developments, attributed this mainly to the perceptions of the Egyptian society in general, the entire Arab world in fact, which still solely assign leadership roles to men.
Meanwhile, female legislators, senior officials, and managers represented 6.4% of the overall population in Egypt in 2017 and 2018, according to the Global Gender Gap Report.
Commenting on such figures, El Awadi says:
“If women aren’t advancing, it may be because men are better at standing up for themselves; women have to learn how to push to move up and be considered a peer by their male colleagues.”
While Egypt still needs to further bridge the gender gap across the board, Tatweer Misr’s Kabil states that the last decade has seen females facing less and fewer problems when it comes to holding leading positions, in line with the government’s plan to empower women and achieve several gains on the political and decision-making levels.
Why Hire More Women?
Nowadays, there is a mounting number of women, who have learned the intricacies of the real estate business and took it up as a profession. However, how true is the saying: Want to run a successful business, hire more women?
Most of the interviewed female professionals see not as many substantial differences between men and women when it comes to real estate work.
For example, Kabil says:
“Women have a more cerebral approach to management than men for being more rigorous and taking the time to evaluate things before making crucial business decisions.”
Meanwhile, Salah affirms:
“Women have proven to be great leaders. women’s high organizational skills also give a totally different aspect to leadership.”
In this regard, El Sobky sees that
“leadership skills have no gender limits and we are indeed seeing today more females in jobs across all sectors in Egypt. I think soon enough we will see female CEOs becoming a norm in our society and people will realize that we can be just as productive.”
Female experts listed a number of characteristics that make women eligible to be employed:
– Creativity and innovation are the best in introducing and positioning any new product, as well as, initiation of new smart ways to reach the target client.
– Women are active listeners; they know how to listen and clearly understand the needs of others. This enables them to be much attuned to clients’ needs.
– Females outperform males when it comes to spatial memory tasks and multi-tasking.
– Women are known for their sociable nature as they tend to be more sociable than men.
– Women are more effective in group settings with their natural ability to communicate allows them to better paint a picture of the future.
On a wider scope, Shaker sees that the industry has undergone some tremendous development in terms of sales and marketing outreach in the last ten years with more female professionals entering the real estate business. She explains that they have been instrumental in adopting a more customer-oriented approach.
Golden Opportunities Exist
Like any other male-dominated industry, women have faced their share of obstacles in the housing market, but an undoubtedly higher number of opportunities are available for them now.
El Sobky and Kabil agree that the real estate sector has been one of the most successful and impactful industries in the country for some time now, and will certainly remain so for years to come, while Salah attributes this to “the high number of mega developments witnessed as we are in the era of building a new Egypt, making the real estate sector one of the primary engines of the Egyptian economy.”
“I am proud to be part of it all as if I feel I’m influencing the economy from my own office,” Salah highlights, while El Sobky elaborates, “Being part of promising projects being developed gives me a great sense of accomplishment and is what keeps me going every day, knowing that I am in the heart of our country’s future development plans gives me great pride.”
Today, being a woman, in specific, in real estate has its advantages, especially with female clients making most of the homebuying decisions, according to El Awadi. Property Finder’s latest figures showed women accounting for 59% of new property seekers in 2017.
For this reason, female professionals see that companies are slowly moving the needle by increasingly hiring women in executive roles.
Alsoud notes that another advantage of working in the property field is that it always makes one alerted about the economic and political situations of the country.
By the same token, Kabil adds, “My work field always gives me the opportunity to work with a very wide range of consumers, allowing me to remain constantly updated on latest market trends, shifts in consumer behavior, and economic and social changes.”
Similarly, El Awadi says that real estate gives her the privilege to use all marketing and commercial knowledge and skills, while gaining more and more of that every year.
Recipes to Success
For all those who make it through, the road to success has never been easy and was full of obstacles. They stumble a lot, but they then learn how to stand upright. Here, we give some recipes to success by those who achieved a lot, yet the sky is still the limit for them:
– Learn … Be Up to Date. One should never stop learning, studying, gaining knowledge, or working on developing oneself. It is easier to make a career success if you understand the dynamics of the internal and external stakeholders. Understanding the target clients’ mindsets and developing a deep understanding of them helps one speak the same language and meet consumers’ demands, according to Kabil.
– Dream Big, Work Hard. It does not matter how big or small your dreams are; what’s important is that you believe in your aspirations enough to work on achieving them. To stand out and achieve personal goals, one has to set a target and vigorously work to achieve it so that exerted efforts are appreciated. Success requires a lot of hard work, and thus, she recommends prioritizing the things an individual wants and needs.
– Stay Persistent. Persistence is probably one of the most important characteristics a person can possess; it is the ability to be determined to reach your set goals regardless of any setbacks. The key that opens all doors for opportunities.
– Eliminate Stereotypes. Unconscious biases continue to shape society’s behavior and choices in ways that we do not really realize sometimes. Let go of any limiting beliefs and stereotypes, have faith in your abilities, and take advantage of any opportunity to learn.
– Be Flexible. Another factor to success is flexibility, which is the understanding of when change needs to happen. It is advised to adapt to the work environment and its adjustments accordingly, yet without losing your identity.
– Create Your Identity. Any woman starting her career always aspires for a role model to follow. Create and take hold of your personal brand as a professional in all you do and whatever task you make or career you are pursuing. Success is to be comfortable in your own skin, to be happy in your job, and to realize that it is not only work that matters, but you should rather have a complete balanced life.
– Believe in Yourself … Be Strong. Many great women around the world have overcome all the hindering challenges and are now very well respected and have proved that there are no limitations to what they can achieve. “Let them be your role models and surely that will boost our confidence and support our claim for equality,” El Sobky says. Showing confidence is key, especially for women, to prove that both genders are on the same page and that females can deliver just as much as males.
In the fewest words possible, Salah says, “You have all the needed resources inside of you, so you can make it happen.”
Read this feature on pages no. 40 and 41 at our March Issue.