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Gender equity in rental housing in

Did you know that March 8 was International Women’s Day? To celebrate the day and support women’s contributions to the rental housing industry, RHBTV News produced a four-part weekly series of inspirational interviews with women in leadership roles (the quotes in the article come from those interviews). Over the years, RHB Magazine has also interviewed and profiled other prominent women in Canada’s rental housing industry.


n the ndustry By David Gargaro Although women make up slightly more than 50 per cent of the population, they are underrepresented in corporate leadership roles. The rental housing industry is making progress on becoming equitable for women. However, more needs to be done – from an industry standpoint and on an individual basis.

The numbers tell a story According to McKinsey & Company’s report, “Women in the Workplace 2020,” women make up 48 per cent of all entry level positions. As women move up through the talent pipeline, this figure drops to: •  39 per cent of managers •  34 per cent of senior managers / directors •  30 per cent of vice presidents •  23 per cent of senior vice presidents •  23 per cent of CEOs Women and Gender Equality Canada (WAGE) is a federal department that works to advance equality for women by focusing on increasing women’s economic security and prosperity, encouraging women’s leadership and democratic participation, and ending gender-based violence. According to WAGE, women make up over 50 per cent of university grads and 35 per cent of university grads with an MBA. These figures do not translate to women getting leadership roles, as WAGE found that women in Canada: • Earn 28 per cent less than men • Represent just 10 per cent of seats on board of directors • Hold only 5.2 per cent of the CEO roles at Fortune 500 companies • Hold only 8 per cent of top paid jobs in Canada

Only 23 per cent of CEOs are women. Founded in 1989, the CREW (Commercial Real Estate Women) Network enables women in commercial real estate to exchange information, form business contacts, and help each other succeed professionally. Its 2020 Benchmark Study Report on gender and diversity in commercial real estate determined that: • Women hold only 9 per cent of C-suite positions in commercial real estate • In Canada, almost 36 per cent of all professionals in commercial real estate are women, which is relatively unchanged over the last 15 years • In the commercial real estate sector, the fixed salary gap between genders is 18 per cent, while the commission and bonus gap is 69 per cent • In the multifamily sector, there is a gap of over 28 per cent in average compensation between genders COVID-19 has negatively affected employment in industries across Canada, but it has had a more significant impact on women in Ontario’s real estate sector. Ontario’s Financial Accountability Office found that, in 2020, women made up 57 per cent of layoffs across the entire labour force but more than 89 per cent of all job losses recorded in Ontario’s real estate, rental, and leasing sector.

Recognizing self-imposed barriers Women face many external obstacles to being promoted to executive positions throughout the rental housing industry. They have to overcome internal barriers that impede their growth in their organization and the industry. According to Amy

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Women make up more than 89 per cent of all job losses recorded in Ontario’s real estate, rental, and leasing sector. Montoya, Managing Partner at Bella Investment Group (who spoke at a panel for the National Apartment Association), women face five key challenges in their careers: •

Lack of confidence

•  Aversion to risk and failure •  Imposter syndrome •  Discomfort with self-promotion •  Career aspiration gaps Lack of confidence in the workplace typically arises from not knowing how to perform a task or difficulty with understanding a topic. Educating oneself on a difficult topic is one way to address the issue. For example, lack of confidence could be tied to doing a presentation. To overcome this feeling, they can make a plan to get better, take courses on public speaking, research the subject matter, and practice their presentation until they are comfortable.

never make you shine. Focus on your strengths and really kill them, and you will get ahead and achieve success.” Women in general have an issue with risk aversion, which is evident in the real estate and financial industries. Statistics demonstrate that women are more risk averse than men, which ties directly to career advancement. According to research collected by the Harvard Business Review, men are more likely to take risks than women, and this likelihood increases under stress. People also perceive women to be more risk averse than men, which means women get less support for taking risks.

Women are more risk averse than men, which ties directly to career advancement.

“Read about the industry, ask questions, and most of all recognize that you are in an industry that is constantly changing,” said Margaret Herd, Senior Vice-President, Operations and Development, Park Property Management Inc.

Many people in different fields feel imposter syndrome. This can lead them to believe they are either not good enough to do the job or that others will view them as frauds, even when they are good at what they do. Women tend to experience imposter syndrome more often than men, even when they are high achieving and accomplished. These thoughts remove the good feelings of accomplishment they might have for the hard work they’ve put in, the knowledge and skills they’ve acquired, and the experience they’ve accumulated along the way.

Aversion to risk and failure is often tied to fear of the unknown. Fear comes from what might happen if they fail at a task. To avoid potential failure, they don’t attempt the task. The fear is based on something that may never happen or on an inflated image of the consequences of what may happen if they take a risk. To overcome fear of a situation, such as asking for a promotion, consider the worst-case scenario. In this case, your boss could say “No”, which is not the disaster that many people imagine it to be.

Women can overcome imposter syndrome by voicing their feelings to others, which can help them to grow a community of supporters who often feel the same way. Getting external validation can help with overcoming these thoughts and will demonstrate that they are not alone in feeling this way. Making a list of their accomplishments, and repeatedly reading them aloud and referring to the list, will create more confidence and help with overcoming imposter syndrome.

Failure is a learning opportunity. When we fail, we learn what did not work, and we can apply that knowledge the next time we face the situation. Then we can succeed based on what we learned from the failure. This makes failure a stepping stone to growth.

“Impostor syndrome is a common thing, and can lead to feelings of self-doubt and inadequacy,” said Trish MacPherson, Partner, Alignvest Student Housing REIT. “Self-doubt can be turned around. Make sure you know the facts and show that you are prepared, and when others see this, they will reinforce that you know what you’re doing. Set your goals and find cheerleaders who will support you in achieving your goals, and be cheerleaders for other people as well.”

“Focus on your strengths, not your weaknesses,” said Paula Gasparro, Vice President, Real Estate Finance, CMLS Financial. “Realize your weaknesses, but know that your weaknesses will

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Discomfort with requesting a promotion is often tied to perfectionism. Women will talk themselves out of applying for a role or asking for a promotion because they don’t think they are good enough. According to LinkedIn research, women are 16 per cent less likely than men to apply for a job after viewing a job posting, and they apply to 20 per cent fewer jobs than men. Women were also less likely to apply for more senior positions. As a result, women avoid opportunities to apply for roles that they would be qualified to get. A discussion paper put out by the U.S. Institute of Labor Economics on a survey of lawyers in the United States determined that there is a large gender gap in men’s and women’s early aspirations to become law firm partners, even when they have similar early career investments and educational characteristics. Higher aspirations lead to putting in more effort, and are tied to expectations of success and the desire to become a partner. The research found that 60 per cent of male lawyers have high career aspirations, while only 32 per cent of female lawyers felt the same. Early work experiences, including harassment and demeaning comments, can deter these aspirations, which can then affect longterm promotion outcomes. These results may be paralleled in the rental housing industry.

Providing support through networking, mentorship, and sponsorship While women can help themselves by addressing their internal obstacles, leaders and management can support women’s growth and development throughout their organizations and the rental housing industry. Three supportive strategies are networking, mentorship, and sponsorship.

concerns,” said Sam Amin, Marketing Manager, Yardi Canada. “Highlight women leaders in your organization and in the industry. It empowers women leaders and sends the message out that this is a voice of leadership that is diverse.” Company leaders can support women’s growth through networking by creating opportunities to connect with industry professionals. These can include in-person and online conferences, seminars, webinars, lunch and learns, and other events. They can also encourage women to join LinkedIn, sign up for memberships and take leadership roles in industry associations, read industry newsletters, and engage in activities where they can meet others in casual settings. However, they should be mindful to make networking opportunities gender inclusive.

33 per cent of women (versus 27 per cent of men) have never had a meaningful conversation with senior leadership about their career. “Companies may be falling into an unconscious bias trap with the manner in which they encourage employees to network,” said Brandi McIlvenny, Director of Residential, Sifton Properties Limited. “Corporate hockey team? Pub nights? All are designed, unconsciously, to exclude women. Women are also held to a higher level of expectation and scrutiny than their male counterparts are, and their authority as a leader is challenged at a greater rate than men. We need to get over gender segregation and the beliefs that genders fit specific roles.”

Building a network of supportive people throughout the organization and the rental housing industry can help women in many ways. It can help them to overcome risk aversion and other inner obstacles, as it will provide a support network of people who have had the same experiences. Building a network provides more career opportunities, as it gives women access to people with experience in different roles, who can provide advice and direction, as well as leads and connections to new opportunities.

Mentoring is another way to help women in the rental housing industry to advance within their organizations. It allows more senior management to provide coaching and professional guidance to junior members. They also increase engagement and provide mentees with practical strategies for maximizing their potential. However, mentorship is severely lacking for women in many corporate settings. According to McKinsey & Company’s report “Women in the Workplace 2020,” 33 per cent of women (versus 27 per cent of men) have never had a meaningful conversation with senior leadership about their career.

“Create an environment that feels supportive for women so they feel comfortable voicing their

Companies can set up a mentorship program to provide coaching and increase workplace

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exposure, which can help develop women’s confidence and professional identity. Companies can also establish formal development programs, creating structured assignments between a senior leader and junior person, with the goal of increasing competencies and achieving set goals related to their positions. Another idea is to support informal mentoring that occurs organically between mentor and mentee based on shared goals, interests, and connections. Sponsorship is a more active way for company leaders to help women advance in their careers. Whereas mentors provide advice, sponsors take action and use their expertise and position to help their protégé advance. Sponsorship can include providing women with access to exclusive networks, advocating on their behalf for opportunities, and motivating them on their journey along their desired career path. “Mentoring and sponsorship can help to enhance a woman’s social capital by connecting them with influential business contacts from whom they may otherwise have been excluded,” said McIlvenny. “As a widely recognized development strategy, mentoring is a tool that can help close the gender gap and is as simple as a senior ranking member of an organization providing coaching and professional guidance to a more junior ranking protégé.”

The numbers tell another story Companies must earn profits to grow and prosper. The data suggests that hiring women and employing them in leadership positions is both equitable and profitable. A CREW Network white paper from 2017 found that companies with gender diverse upper management had better ROI and carried less debt than homogenous companies. A report from the International Labour Organization, which examined more than 13,000 firms in 70 countries, found that nearly 75 per cent of companies that tracked gender diversity in management positions reported increases in profits from 5 to 20 per cent, and most firms experienced 10 to 15 per cent growth. According to the 2017 Deloitte Global Human Capital Survey, diversity and inclusion are critical to business performance, as they increase creativity and innovation within teams. More specifically, organizations within the real estate industry that have inclusive cultures are “twice as likely to meet or exceed financial targets and

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three times as likely to be high-performing.” These companies are also “six times more likely to be innovative and agile, and eight times more likely to achieve better business outcomes.” McKinsey & Company’s 2020 report on the importance of diversity and inclusion found that companies with executive teams in the top quartile for gender diversity were 25 per cent more likely to realize above-average profits than companies in the fourth quartile. It also determined that companies in which women represented more than 30 per cent of the executives were more likely to outperform companies with lower percentages of female executives. “Did you know that organizations with a mixture of female and male board members outperform all male leadership by a whopping 53 per cent?” said McIlvenny. “Companies with more women in top management found their return on investment and return to shareholders on average 35 per cent higher than companies with little to no females in management. Employing female leaders can increase the overall profitability of a company upwards of 69 per cent.”

Nearly 75 per cent of companies that tracked gender diversity in management positions reported increases in profits from 5 to 20 per cent. Conclusion Gender equity is a serious concern throughout the rental housing industry. Many companies prominently feature women as leaders and influencers, yet women continue to be grossly underrepresented at senior, executive, C-suite, and Board levels. One can argue that companies do not do enough to attract, retain, engage, and promote women. Others feel that women must also learn to overcome internal challenges and create their own opportunities. Any industry ambivalence to women in the workplace must be addressed, as failing to do so will be detrimental to employees and the businesses. The lack of parity in female advancement should be discussed openly because putting more women in leadership benefits the bottom line, gender equity, and the rental housing industry as a whole.

Profile for Marc Cote

RHB Magazine March/April 2021 - Gender Equity in the Rental Housing Industry  

RHB, RHB Magazine, Gender Equity

RHB Magazine March/April 2021 - Gender Equity in the Rental Housing Industry  

RHB, RHB Magazine, Gender Equity

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