Although female representation in real estate is constantly on the rise, it still lags much further behind than expected. For women, working in a male-dominated industry is old news, but it still poses a myriad of challenges that must be confronted nonetheless, especially in a substantial sector such as real estate. Invest-Gate meets prominent women who made it through this demanded sector, and they demonstrate to us how is it like to be a woman in this field, not to mention the challenges they usually face as women, mothers, and of course, employees.
Gender is Not the Issue!
Reham El Sobky, marketing director at Castle Development, sees that there are challenges for anyone who works in this sector regardless of their gender. She says, “It is a challenging field for both men and women. To be successful you have to work very hard to achieve your goals and stand out so that your efforts are appreciated, especially in a market with this much competition. There are many positives and negatives when pursuing a career in real estate, but the positives usually stand out especially when you work in something you truly love and are passionate about it. With the economy’s growth rate, which currently stands at 3.5%, and the fierce competition within the market, it is an industry that attracts those with a clear vision for sustainable growth, regardless of their genders.”
She pinpoints the crux of this industry, saying that “Despite being in a male-dominated industry, we are currently starting to see first glimpses of change where women are assigned major positions within the workforce. The major challenges usually have to do with achieving the right balance between life at home and work; it’s where women are expected to compromise and be extra patient to ensure they’re making the right decisions on both fronts. There’s a long way to go still, however, I am confident that one day we will be able to achieve a level of equality in the Egyptian real estate industry that allows it to become a beacon that attracts others hoping to provide equal opportunities that prioritize skills and hard work over anything else.”
Likewise, Ghada Shaker, public relations and corporate communications director at City Edge Developments (CED), agrees saying, “To be honest, there is nothing that I see challenging in this field for me as a woman, I mean there are others challenges but gender is not one of them.” She demonstrates more saying, “this field requires long hours working and this may affect your family and your personal life, and as woman and mother, this sure might affect your role in your family.”
Furthermore, she adds that “If the job requires too many hours this applies for both males and females then we shouldn’t discriminate between them because women are mothers… I mean they both have responsibilities and life.”
Shaker also gives a glimpse of women’s stance in the field saying, “I believe that women in the real estate market are either in the sales or the marketing sections, but lately we have seen women as a development director as well, which is a very good move because simply this wasn’t something normal ten years ago. Real estate has grown tremendously and women succeed to go up the ladder in this part and get a high position.”
Speaking of the changes that the sector witnesses, Shaker explains, “I have been working in the real estate sector for almost ten years, and a lot has happened in this period in the market. One of the significant changes is that owners start to trust women more in this industry, and women succeed to prove themselves in this sector.”
Women Setting the Scene
Menna El Attal, marketing director at El Attal Holding, believes in women’s capabilities and their success in this market is proof of the ongoing devolvement that the industry witnesses. One aspect of female power, to El Attal, is convincing clients.
“We face challenges because we are women. People also put us on a typical pattern and we know how to confront it,” she indicates.
“Well, let’s start by saying that women can do anything they put their minds into and they have been penetrating many fields for decades,” that’s how Alia El Nagdi, executive director, marketing and PR at Iwan Developments, describes working in real estate industry.
She further says, “Today, things have changed from how they were 100 years ago, even for women realtors. At first, real estate was seen as a man’s field, it was certainly seeing less participation from women than today. With the substantial reforms that have been made to improve the ecosystem for business, women can now enter various industries and work their way to the top. Real estate has always been very competitive, but I think it takes talent, skill, training, and persistence to overcome challenges and reach higher positions.”
El Nagdi also remembers how she starts in this field saying, “I have been working for more than 25 years now (last 10 years, in the real estate industry). I have held many positions in real estate from marketing, PR, to sales, and business development and I can tell you that real estate can be very demanding. In the early stages of your career, it takes a great deal of your time: late nights, long hours, and weekends, too; and it doesn’t get easier when you have a family.”
“This doesn’t only apply to me but to women out there, mothers, married women, and divorcees who have to juggle work and family responsibilities. When successfully achieving this balance and looking to professional growth in the field, the fight just gets tougher. Women realtors often face challenges regarding lack of mentorship and training and also pay gap based on gender and also lack of promotion opportunities,” she adds.
Challenges Do Exist
Challenges do exist and women usually see it in their daily work. The executive director, marketing and PR at Iwan Developments indicates, “You see women work harder, put in more hours, and sell more, but are still often overlooked for C-level and executive roles in real estate.”
“A survey found that women make up 25% of the membership of the real estate and land use organization, but they only account for 14% of its CEOs. Only 12% of those surveyed are in a president, CEO, executive director, or similar roles. Another [survey] found that the percentage of women chief executives in various industries in Egypt is 16% compared to 84% of men,” she adds.
“For years popular culture has established this stereotyped image of women as housewives and men as leaders, which is unfortunately still there, maybe on a smaller scale but still contributes to lack of self-confidence among a big portion of young women and causes reluctance to pursue career paths leading to taking over executive positions,” she notes.
Moreover, she stresses that more awareness is needed, saying, “We need to raise the awareness on how crucial female inclusion is in real estate or other industries, and the impact of female workforce on the economic level, I think the direction towards empowering women in real estate should receive bigger support.”
“There’s a great need to create a culture that promotes equity in an open environment, recruits candidates based on talent to avoid gender discrimination, establishes mentorship and training for females in organizations, and drives career development through diverse work assignments,” she points.
Marwa Amr, marketing director at The Land Developers Company, sees that women do face challenges because of their gender. She asserts, “People will judge your work and your capabilities because you are a woman.” Thus, Amr advises that women have to constantly prove themselves; “Not to mention that you have to develop your skills to prove that you have the required qualifications,” she adds.
Amr also believes that women are strong enough because of the pressure they face all the time. “We are multitaskers, and trustworthy.” But she also thinks that being a woman is a 24/7 job, “I have to compromise between being a mother and an employee,” she says.
Still a Male-dominated Industry?
From a different perspective, Dahlia Sherif, VP people and culture at Tatweer Misr, agrees that this field is globally male-dominated, “but over the years we have been witnessing more female presence,” she states.
“We have been witnessing women calibers relatively more involved in the sector. The majority are in the administrative aspect or office-based departments, such as human resources, marketing, public relations, etc. Yet females are now making it to top management and senior roles. The absence of women in certain departments such as planning, quality control, or any site-based job is not only the result of gender inequality in the field, sometimes it also has to do with cultural barriers and family commitments. Yet again, the current scene is nothing like what it used to be a decade or so ago,” Sherif says.
“The real estate industry is a generally tough and hard-working industry and in order to succeed, whether male or female, individuals need to portray a high level of dedication, hard work, and strong interpersonal skills. In some cases, females would be required to work harder than male calibers to stand out, prove themselves the perfect fit for the job at hand and eliminate the stereotypes that has been present for centuries,” she notes.
In terms of the challenges, she explains, “Based on personal experiences, individuals in their early stages of the real estate career will face several encounters. I personally had to work double hours and prove my dedication to the company and the overall industry. With time, you learn to adapt the perfect work-life balance and will grow to love your job,” she comments.
Despite the obstacles she faces she knows how to survive, “I learned that women empowerment must be a top priority, especially [to] the younger generation that newly enter the market not knowing what to expect or what gender inequality would impose on them. For this reason, at Tatweer Misr we pay very close attention to women empowerment, ensure a sufficient number of women rise the hierarchy despite their age. We are flexible when it comes to working from home policies as we understand that women especially those in higher positions are dedicated both to their jobs as well as their families,” Sherif clarifies.
Bottom line, working in a male-dominated industry was never an easy job, but women succeed to make it through and prove themselves every day in this booming sector.