Despite our increasing level of awareness when it comes to gender parity, the staggering truth remains that women in real estate still represent a minority. Another shortfall can be seen in the leadership positions of women in technology as well, let alone women in real estate technology. Females working in this niche market may be a rarity, but they are also changing its prospects, one girl at a time.
What is now known as property technology, real estate technology is slowly but surely making its way into all the sector’s operations, and women are bound to take part in this ever-growing innovation. Invest-Gate takes a closer look into that change, evaluating women’s pivotal role in prop tech companies and their outlook for the market.
Underlining Female Capabilities
Arwa Atef Shalaby, sales manager at OLX, talks to Invest-Gate more on women’s role specifically in sales jobs in regards to property tech. “Women started dominating the sales jobs heavily; that job was mainly for men back in the days but now women proved that they have the same skills and market understanding to manage client’s needs and requests,” she elucidates.
Speaking about how she copes in a male-dominated industry, Atef says, “Understanding the mindset of the person in front of me helped me in knowing exactly the right words to say to grab their attention and thus listen to what I have to say, moreover, having full knowledge about the topic in hand and doing my research properly, in a way that makes me prepared to answer any question in any argument, solidified my position and gave me the confidence needed to be heard.”
On the other hand, Nourhan El-Mallah, senior business operations executive at Sakneen, recounts her story about how her previous experience in platforms such as Property Finder and OLX paved the way and qualified her to be responsible for the operations at the newly established prop-tech startup Sakneen. From being an account manager at Property Finder, then switching to business development at OLX- where she was the first face or voice of the company- she says her experience stimulated a deeper client-relations understanding within the sector. “All those years of experience helped me be the person I am today… it taught me what clients in this field actually need, and what they are expecting and what they don’t like and really want to change; the same goes to the end users, whom I usually put myself in their shoes whenever I’m trying one of the services we provide, because clients and users always come first,” she denotes.
To reflect this driving force of female capabilities, companies have to adjust their strategies and quotas. Women no longer should feel the need to fit in as, “the vast majority, if not all of them have achieved remarkable successes in their work, in addition to the fact that a significant number of companies are now committed with many controls that preserve a healthy and safe working environment for women. In the end, I see that those successes that women achieve, regardless of their workplace, are the most appropriate response to companies that do not adhere to the necessary standard,” El-Mallah adds.
Beating the Odds
Nonetheless, there is still a significant number of challenges that face women in their work. “The main challenge that women face is to be listened to rather than judged in advance,” OLEX’s Atef points out.
El-Mallah believes that up until this moment, women still have not had equal opportunities in the real estate field, despite the fact that the small percentage of women working in this field have already achieved huge successes in their job positions. “I also see that there is gender discrimination on the part of companies; for example in most of the sales job postings you’ll find the companies limiting the position to females, which is usually due to reasons related to retroactive ideas based on the idea that women are able to convince male clients, and this is an objectification for women in the field of work,” she indicates.
Furthermore, she demonstrates that there are many other challenges that women face every day in a male-dominated industry such as the real estate industry. Some of them are mansplaining, she says, referring that some male coworkers will always feel the need to explain basic and general knowledge for women simply because they think they know better and that women generally lack industry know-how, which often undermines women’s ability to get things done. “I, and most of the women in the real estate industry, were able to overcome all those challenges by proving every single one of them wrong, and by showing them how we actually get the job perfectly done,” El-Mallah stresses.
A Glimpse into the Future
Talking about how platforms such as OLX and Sakneen are shaping the real estate market, Atef elaborates that “the e-commerce business changed drastically with COVID-19. People now spend more time online than offline. They get all their data and needs through different platforms. At OLX, we noticed the increase in the number of visits on our properties virtually, reflecting the fact that people educate themselves now online more than offline. Not only that, but they also try to minimize direct contact with people, which gives us more room to offer more value-added services that cater to their needs with a better understanding.”
Likewise, El-Mallah shares her thoughts on the current market conditions, which have stirred up an increase in downward pressure on operations and sales volumes, and in return, made digital transformation inevitable. “There are several real estate marketplaces and platforms; however, none of them offer the “Virtual Tour” service, which Sakneen offers. Prior to the pandemic, buyers preferred to see property in person. Today, that mindset has shifted, with countless buyers turning to virtual property tours first, before committing to see a home in person. Covid-19 has certainly been one of the most urgent and immediate factors influencing the rise in virtual real estate tours, and people have come to expect virtual options for nearly everything, and home buying is no exception,” she expounds.
She further dwells on what Sakneen now has to offer in light of the digital tools that Covid has accelerated, highlighting features such as the virtual reality (VR) tours, financing services, commute calculator, and other filters that help users find exactly what they are looking for. El-Mallah considers all these new attributes to be a digital leap and a huge milestone in the industry. “I believe we should continue to find more interesting features that not only help the clients, but help us do our jobs too. There should be a constant competition to develop things in a futuristic way and to make that competition based on modern capabilities,” she concludes.
On a final note, Atef recommends young female professionals, who aspire to take on technical leadership positions in the future to be confident and research a lot. “Numbers are your best friend in any argument,” she emphasizes. The sales manager also thinks that 3D virtual online tour is the future and that she is excited the most to see it applied across Egypt’s real estate sector.
In conclusion, as women are already entrenched across the different functions of the real estate sector, whether in sales, operations, or others, they are inevitably an imperative part of its tech and of the digitalization of the industry as a whole. This is the future and the future is for everyone; thus, women are definitely more than ready to embrace it with all its tech.