21.1.21

The Propcast: Gender Diversity In PropTech

In this episode The Propcast talks to Kim Lewis of Oxford Properties, and Courtney Cooper from Alate Partners about gender diversity in PropTech.

 

Click here to listen to this episode and check out this sneak peek of our chat!

The Propcast by Louisa Dickins, Co-Founder of LMRE the leading Global PropTech recruiter brought to you in partnership with UK PropTech Association. The UK PropTech Association is a membership organisation to drive the digital transformation of the property industry. This show will focus on connecting the Proptechs, real estate funds and VC’s globally…and get everyone talking about innovation of the build to rent environment.

 

21.1.21

About Our Guests

Kim Lewis

https://www.linkedin.com/in/kim-lewis-410a007/?originalSubdomain=ca

Kim is Senior Vice President at Oxford Properties Group, who connect people to exceptional places, and is the owner, developer and manager of some of the world’s best real estate assets. Established in 1960, it manages approximately $60 billion of assets across the globe on behalf of its co-owners and investment partners. Oxford’s portfolio encompasses office, retail, industrial, hotels and multifamily residential and spans more than 100 million square feet in global gateway cities across four continents. Kim is a seasoned strategist in all things digital, she is passionate about work that positions her on the edge of change leading the way. Kim likes collaborating with innovators who think deeply about how technology can add value and solve for business opportunities, Kim builds off their creativity and enjoys the challenge of honing a vision, connecting the dots between business outcomes and technology, elevating ways of working to deliver real value and empowering innovation in big ways and small.

 

Courtney Cooper

https://www.linkedin.com/in/courtneyjcooper/?originalSubdomain=ca

Courtney is a principal at Alate Partners. In this role, she helps identify and scale promising real estate technology companies, provides market analysis and due diligence, and manages relationships with industry partners. Courtney has spent most of her career in real estate —including more than four years at Dream, leading innovation and business transformation initiatives. She went on to work as an Innovation Strategist at Great-West Life, where she helped one of Canada’s largest financial institutions analyze new markets and identify opportunities for growth. Courtney takes a human-centred approach, developed through her graduate studies in Strategic Foresight and Innovation at OCAD University. She holds a B.S. in Business Administration with a specialty in Operations from Georgetown University.

 

Resources mentioned

LMRE website www.lmre.co.uk

UKPA website www.ukpa.com

Oxford Properties website www.oxfordproperties.com

Alate Partners website www.alatepartners.com

 

Key Insights In this Episode

 

- As we see more diverse people around the table, there's proof that this leads to better outcomes and actually better business outcomesCourtney Cooper

- I think the motivation has definitely shifted in recent years towards increased diversity more as a foundation to drive better outcomes and solutions within the organisationKim Lewis

- We all have an accountability to support each other, through what is a long journey. And so, be open about concerns, perceptions, ideals, and proactively engage in constructive dialogueKim Lewis

- Each one of us needs to think about what we can do ourselves as well as organisationally, to try to reduce these kinds of barriers and inequalityCourtney Cooper

- The hiring process is key because you're interviewing the candidate, but the candidate is also interviewing youCourtney Cooper

 

 

Episode Transcript

Louisa

Hi, everyone, and welcome to the Propcast. My name is Louisa Dickins, co-founder of LMRE and board director of the UKPA and I shall be your weekly host. Each week for 30 minutes we will be connecting with VCs, PropTech startups and real estate professionals globally and assist in bridging that famous communication gap we all love talking about. So sit back, relax and enjoy the show. Hi, everyone, and welcome back to the podcast. Last season, we spoke with the global CIO of Cushman & Wakefield Adam Stanley on racial diversity within real estate technology, and today, we'll be speaking with our Canadian friends Kim Lewis, Senior Vice President of technology at Oxford Properties and Courtney Cooper, Principal of Alate Partners on gender diversity within our space. So welcome to the show, ladies.

 

Kim

It's really great to be here. Thanks for having me.

 

Courtney

Thanks for having us here today for the conversation.

 

Louisa

And now for everyone listening, I'll give you a bit of background to both Kim and Courtney. So Kim joined Oxford Properties Group in January 2020 as SVP of technology, Oxford Properties Group established in 1960 manages over 60 billion Canadian dollars of assets across the globe on behalf of its investment partners, and they cover all asset classes and spans more than 100 million square feet globally. And prior to Oxford Properties, Kim held many leadership positions in Canada's Big Five banks and software companies. Kim's areas of expertise include PropTech, sustained innovation at a competitive differentiator and positioning Oxford as leading the technology transformation across the real estate industry. Kim is a whiz at leading collaborating with dreamers and innovators who think deeply about how technology can add value and solve business opportunities. Kim builds off their creativity and enjoys the challenge of owning a vision, connecting the dots between business outcomes and technology, and elevating ways of working to deliver real value. Kim also holds a Bachelor of Science from the University of Waterloo and lives in Toronto. So welcome to the show again Kim.

 

And now, time for Courtney's introduction. Courtney is a Principal at Alate Partners, which is a leading real estate technology investor based in Toronto. Alate focuses on investing in early stage technology companies across North America and beyond. In addition to capital Alate provides unique access to expertise and customers through its network of influential real estate owners, operators and developers. And prior to joining Alate, Courtney spent nearly 10 years in real estate technology and operations, leading innovation and business transformation initiatives at some of Canada's largest real estate financial services firms. Courtney is a board observer of Arrive, Lane, Branch and Eden so definitely check them out. Courtney is also co-founder of the PropTech Collective, which LMRE are proud to partner with and we'll be working on something which is coming out next year, which I'm really excited but it's top secret for now. The PropTech Collective for those who don't know, is an authentic forum for people who are members of it. They vary from real estate professionals, technologists and community builders, people from the startup world, it's a network, it's a family, it's a community where we share ideas, innovate and collaborate. And so we'll be sharing information about that after the show.

 

But enough about me talking, today we're here to talk about gender diversity in this space. And to set the scene I'll give you a bit of an introduction to what's currently happening. So 10% of founders and PropTech are women, and there's also a gender pay gap in funding for women as well. So British bank revealed that female founders get 157 times less funding than men. And in Fortune 500 companies, women and minorities hold 31% of board seats. And overall, nearly 80% of board members are male, which can impact the perceived glass ceiling in employment and impair the progress of diversity to the more senior level. And I think we've generally seen seeing a there's a lack of women in this space, but this isn't to say we can't change in the future. I think what we want to talk about today is Courtney’s and Kim's experiences of this space and for people to see it as another career route as well. So why don't we start off Kim, you've been in software, you've been in finance, you're now in real estate technology. What’s your whole experience been?

 

Kim

You know even before that, as part of my post secondary education, I was a part of a faculty that was also I would say, primarily male driven in the sciences. And so I would say through my experience overall, there has been quite a difference in terms of representation. But in the late 90s, so that’s a long time ago now, I'm dating myself, but in the late 90s it became really clear to me that as I was entering the workforce and kind of getting my feet under the overall, there was a focus on diversity for sure, at some of the large global organisations. It was really clear that leadership tables were not representative of the communities and the geographies that they served. And in some cases, organisations had self recognised that they were increasingly out of touch with their consumer needs. So I think back then, the motivation might have been a bit different in terms of better representing the customer or the consumer that they're trying to serve, and driving diversity within the organisation that way. And we can talk about it a little bit later. But I think the motivation has definitely shifted in recent years towards increased diversity more as a foundation to drive better outcomes and solutions within the organisation. And so I think, companies have realised that the more diversity of thought overall, the better the outcome, the better the value they can provide. And so I think that there's been a bit of an evolution there that's been palatable for me. Anyways, Courtney, I'm not sure how you feel about that.

 

Courtney

I mean, it's interesting because when I look back at my career and where I started, I joined Dream as my first job. And I was hired by a woman, my boss was a woman, and she was a very strong, opinionated woman who people have a great respect for, and I did as well and I learned a lot from her. And that company Dream in particular, has a high representation of women in leadership roles. So I always looked up to people like Jane Gavan, who was in leadership, and then was the CEO of Dream Global REIT. So we have lots of senior women, which was nice, and I distinctly remember back in 2014, something around there, when the federal government started promoting conversations about targets for women on boards, and we're still very underrepresented today. But at the time, the largest companies in Canada had around 15% to 20% representation of women on boards. And so they wanted to look at goals of getting it towards 30% and above. And I remember being at Dream, and they already had significant representation. They’ve a number of different companies, but they've been at the leading edge of having the most women in Canada on their board. So for me, it was a great place where, I was lucky it wasn't something that I thought about, there was still many more men around the table than women. But for me, there was always, a senior woman who was around the table, which was very nice and lucky I think in the real estate industry at that time.

 

Kim

I can kind of build on that a little bit, in your mentioning how you've had some great women leaders through your career already, which is fantastic. I was thinking to myself, when was the first time I worked for a woman? And so again, arguably I've got quite a few more years here, but I think it was probably six or seven years ago was actually the first time that I worked for a woman ever. And so it's probably around the same, 2014 interestingly enough. So prior to that, completely male dominated leadership from my experience.

 

Louisa

Yes, so you're saying there’s starting to be more of a change in focus, and I guess businesses and governments taking this more seriously around 2014. We’re all in real estate technology now, maybe Kim, you’re coming from finance more recently, what's your experience been so far with it?

 

Kim

Yes, and I'll go back to something Courtney just said. I didn't really pay a lot of attention to it. because I'd say for me, as I've progressed through my career it was just the way it was. And you find, one I think ways of thriving in an environment that might not be quite tuned for you and how you think. But also back to Courtney, you find organisations who share the same cultural values as you do. And then gender in a lot of cases doesn't really matter, because you're aligned at the most basic level. And so, my experience within the real estate space and I actually started my career in real estate, and then went off in 100, different directions and now I'm back in real estate. I would say that there is a very keen awareness that having a level of diversity within the organisation is super important overall. I think that the real estate industry as a whole and at the individual organisation perspective, have declared that outwardly. So part of it is saying it out loud. And I think every organisation, and Oxford and others included are very, very focused on making sure that not only are we saying that it's important, but that there is really keen and focused leadership support, tools, practices, encouragement, you name it in order to shift the behaviors within the organisation, to bring to light some of the things that need to be different or change in order to increase that diversity over time.

 

Louisa

Yes, it's definitely going to take time for sure. Courtney, what's your experience been?

 

Courtney

I want to touch on something that I was thinking about, as Kim was talking. So recently at the beginning of the pandemic, I got a desk from Branch, which is one of our portfolio companies. And it was a sit stand desk, and they connected me with somebody to do an ergonomic assessment when I set it up. And one of the things that I realised, I'm 5”6 which is pretty average for women, but one of the things she was telling me was that I've never had a desk that was the right size, because all desks and chairs are designed for the average man. What I think is really interesting about it is, there's a lot that's changing but we also have to recognise that organisations are still changing to become more diverse. And a lot of things that were designed for a man, there's similar stories about years ago, but some founder who was pitching and when they asked where the women's bathroom was, nobody knew. It's just organisations are changing, and you don't realise what might be holding you back or what structurally might be in place because we're all used to it, that's the way it is. And so we're starting to now become more conscious of what's changing. I think that companies are making big strides, even things like parental leave, and not just maternity leave, and men taking breaks. That starts to normalise that this is a major change in families. And it doesn't have to be to the detriment of women, it can be a burden and a joy that’s shared between the two. And it doesn't have to be just women that, if they have children, they need to step back and men taking a bigger role in the home, which we are starting to see more. And that allows women to thrive at work and have more of ability to have a discussion of who should take on different roles, and who should do more at home. So I think that, just in general things are changing in the workplace, at home, and just in society in general. But I think that whether you're the only woman in the room, or the only any kind of person in the room, it's very difficult to advocate for yourself or to point out some of these things that need to be changed. And as we see more diverse people around the table to Kim's point, there's proof that this leads to better outcomes and actually better business outcomes. But it also starts to make people realise that some of the rules and organisational norms might need to shift and for the better for everyone, for the most part.

 

Louisa

Yes, I also would love to get your take on this as well. So Courtney, you can tell our listeners about the PropTech Collective, but from a recruitment angle, I help larger businesses, larger fund startups hire people from junior to senior. Now at the more junior level, the feedback I get from women entering this space, they're very keen on having as Kim mentioned a senior management or senior leaders who are women. And they've often not taken a job opportunity because that's just not there. And I think this might be maybe more seen in startups or early-stage business who can really make that change and ensure that I guess there's a diversity team at the senior level. What have you seen Courtney, or feedback you might have had from some of your portfolio companies?

 

Courtney

Yes, it's huge. A lot of our portfolio companies have focused on diversity from the very beginning. So we're lucky to see y that and people are very conscious of it. But I've had the same conversations with women who are considering joining a team, and if it's 10 men or 10 white men, being the first woman or the first person who has a different perspective is hard. And so that's something that can come up and hopefully companies don't get to the point where they haven't set up and looked for diverse talent from the beginning. So a lot of our companies now are really focused on that, Lane which is based in Toronto, they are incredibly diverse and I think that they had a bit of luck that they the founding team is diverse. They are based in Toronto, which has a diverse talent pool to hire from. And I think that some of our companies are starting to take action, especially after all the conversations this summer, trying to figure out how they can recruit from more diverse environments, and create a more diverse candidate pipeline. As well as trying out different things like blind resume reviews, so taking the names off for hiring managers so that they can look at the credentials, and just and look at what's on the paper first, before understanding whether it's a man or a woman or what their background might be.

 

Louisa

Interesting. Maybe that's something we should start doing. Kim, what about you? Have you joined any associations or do you get involved in any mentorship over your career?

 

Kim

Oh yes, for sure. I think that's a huge part of everyone's professional growth regardless, but I think specifically, as a woman with aspirations let's say, it's really important. And it has been really important for me to create and nurture a really strong and diverse network of colleagues and friends, where you can kind of let your hair down a little bit and share some experiences, real life experiences. And kind of work through some tactics on how best to kind of move forward, I think that's been huge. The other thing that I can't underline enough is, and associations are important I’ll get to that in a second, but really having individuals surrounding you that are true mentors. So it's one thing to have a network of I'll call it “work friends”, but true mentors who have got a wealth of experience, who may have gone down the path that you're attempting to go down themselves, and are really reflective and insightful of the journey, and helping you work through next steps, or how to approach situations etc. And so, when I think back to some situations where you're at a fork in the road or whatever, having a mentor or two that you can kind of work with, has been super important.

 

And I'll just put it out there again, when I think back to the mentors that I've had through the years, and it might just be because I've been in technology in male dominated environments, my entire career, male dominated industries, the mentors that I've worked with, have all been men, interestingly enough. But these are men who are 100% motivated, and just simply interested in supporting the success of individuals, of people, and very open minded that way where gender just didn't matter. And it might just be that I gravitate towards that generally speaking, but I think mentorship is huge. And then you guys can talk about associations, because there’s tons and I've been a part of that as well. It's been great.

 

Louisa

Courtney, I’ll definitely let you talk about this because this is your thing, the PropTech Collective. But there's quite a few associations where it's meant to be a women's only association, and I don't necessarily think men shouldn’t be allowed in to it!

 

Kim

Can I tell a story about that? Oh my goodness and so this is where I would say I naively walked into a situation. So same thing, women in technology and whatever industry, big event and you're invited, you can invite a colleague. I'm like fantastic, let's look at the agenda. And I gave it a whole bunch of thought, who do I know that would benefit from this agenda and the speakers and the topics, etc. And so I invited a male colleague to come with me. And literally, this poor person was the only male in the room of 400 people. And this is again, a good few years ago and I thought, that's interesting to me. And then I'm thinking, oh my goodness, am I not supporting the mandate the way I should be supporting the mandate, but I'm with you Louisa. To me, a lot of the topic of discussion that you end up getting into in a professional environment like this, a lot of it is very, very beneficial for everybody, regardless. So anyhow, there's my there's my little story, and I've never lived it down this poor person, I always send a holiday gift. I'm still apologizing, classic!

 

Courtney

Yes, we so we started PropTech Collective, it was originally for women in PropTech Canada. So Nicky Greenberg out of New York is growing the Global organisation and we got the opportunity to launch it in Canada. And I think what was really interesting was, it wasn't an organisation focused on women's issues, PropTech Collective and Women in PropTech Canada, the conversation is around how do you bridge the gap between real estate and technology? How do we think about adoption of technology in the real estate industry? And what are some of the key problems that we're looking to solve and how can technology help? And so, we ended up rebranding to PropTech Collective and focusing on Canada. That was one of the things we're thinking about is, diversity is incredibly important. And I think that the goal around having very diverse speakers, we are looking to spotlight and have speakers that are 70% women, or black, people of colour, indigenous, one of our focuses and goals internally is let's make sure that we're creating opportunities for underrepresented groups and underfunded people. And there's lots of organisations that have incredible speakers and have the CEOs of large companies and have people who are regulars on the speaker circuit.

 

And we will definitely include some of them, but we also want to spend a lot of time focusing on how do we actually create change in the industry and who has a diverse perspective, or who's doing great work that hasn't necessarily had the opportunity to share it and discuss it. And for us, how you create bridges across technology and real estate, there's education components for sure and content is important. But building relationships between the technology and real estate side and getting people to know one another and understand their problems better is what we believe is a key piece of it. So that's a lot of what we focus on. And but within that, we still believe that trying to find amazing people to highlight that might not have as many opportunities or might not be seen yet. And I can speak for myself, it's very hard to get onto your first panel or your first speaking opportunity. Once you've done it and people see it, and they're like oh, they were good, then you're on the radar. Because conference organisers are very focused on do they have a diverse group of speakers. Even one of our portfolio companies had a CEO panel webinar, and they got called out that it was all male.

 

People are very conscious of this right now and so people are looking for women, and black people, and people of colour, people try to find diversity but people find it hard. And Louisa, you would know this I'm sure you can provide context, it's not that they're not there. We look at the word workforce, it's 50% women, if you look at graduation rates from law degrees and doctors, I think in many cases it's more women than men now. So there are incredible talent pipelines, and there are incredible women that are at all levels, women and other diverse folks. So I think is being conscious and sometimes finding ways to invite more people to apply, I truly believe you should choose the most the best suited person for a job or seeking opportunity. But sometimes, you can't just stop and say, oh well, the only people that applied were white men. How do we make sure that we're getting the candidates to come into the funnel or looking at a broad enough group.

 

Louisa

Well Adam, who we interviewed about racial diversity, I was like, it's really hard to find someone, and he said, just try harder. And it's so true, because they're out there, it's so true. But I think it's going back to what Courtney said as well, it's about giving everyone a voice. It's not just the same people because then you’ll just attract and reach out to the same people. So it's getting to a bigger audience. And so this is quite a difficult question because there's lots of factors that cause I guess, our industry to be an equal, but Kim you might be able to give from someone coming from previously outside the industry until 2020, maybe as one knows how hard it is to enter real estate technology. What would you say a large driving factor could be?

 

Kim

It's interesting, and it is a tough question. But I think over time, one of the primary factors driving inequality, really comes down to compensation. And as you kicked it off, we talked about funding, startup funding, women versus men, I think the same kind of themes or trends are true in terms of the compensation gap, two people doing the exact same job with the same level of accountability. One's male, one's female, there's quite a significant gap in compensation between the two. And if I have to say, it took me a little while to realise that personally, but once you're aware of it, it really does. Because a couple things happened, for me it was like does it really matter to me, because I love what I do, and I can get excited about it. And then I'm like yes, it matters. I'm still going to get excited and I'm still going to be passionate about what I do, but here's the thing, it's not fair. And so I think as an individual, you find ways to approach that topic. Probably much the same way a male would, negotiating as you're moving through.

 

And then the other part of that as a leader and a hiring leader. I am very focused on making sure that there is equity and equality, across the organisation regardless. So the work is the work. And we're out hiring the best people for the job, we're focused on diversity. And frankly, we want to make sure that there's equality as it relates to comp. Now, that's not easily done I don't think and really large organisations, there's all sorts of gaps. And I'm not sure that everyone thinks that way either. Some organizations are man, I want to find the best person for the job, and I want it for a steal! And so I think there's still some of that out there that we need to be working through. But again, in the last few years there's been a pretty big swing overall in making sure that it's starting to be addressed a little bit more deliberately.

 

Louisa

Yes definitely. Courtney, is anything you want to add to that, too? Maybe some things we can do to change some of this?

 

Courtney

Yes, absolutely. Well, I think about this because yesterday, a group that I'm part of Women in CC, that's a Canadian based organisation, it started as a group of five women who were meeting to talk about work, and then it's kind of grown into a little bit of an organisation. And they did a survey of 120 people in Canada, almost two thirds women and one third male, to do a compensation survey and inventor. People don't know what's normal, you don't have a lot of information. And so I think, having things like that, where all of a sudden you have a bit more transparency so you can understand what is market, and the results were mixed and definitely still some gaps in diversity of pay, but at least it gives people a starting point so they can prepare for conversations and have a good sense of what market rate is, when they're going into negotiations.

 

And I think from a founder perspective, it’s the same thing. Unfortunately, there's lots of horrible stats about how much harder it is for women to raise money and the different kinds of questions that they get. And that should change at an organizational level. I think that one of the key lessons I think that came out this summer, in all the conversations around racial equity and inequality was around how the marginalised group shouldn't be the one that's forced to bear the burden on educating others. And so I think that's something we really have to keep in mind, is that each one of us needs to think about what we can do ourselves as well as organisationally, to try to reduce these kinds of barriers and inequality. At the same time, at this point in time you just have to, prepare better too, you have to know what's coming. And so, compensation surveys, as well as women entrepreneurs just getting more data and understanding of what kind of questions they might be asked so that they can have be prepared and have their have a have a good case for why they should get funding. Because when you look at women lead companies or diverse founding teams, they often perform much better, there's lots of data around how they perform better. So it’s not that women don't have a good idea, it’s not that women aren't as good leaders. And it's not that women aren't starting companies or in senior leadership teams, we still have more male founders than female founders in our portfolio. But what I would say is that some of the strongest performing individuals are women that are i the women that are in the executive leadership team in the company, and so that's really heartening to see that they're such strong leaders that they can go and they can start companies or be in leadership positions in these companies, and in their next company, so that we have more diverse management team. So I think that there's more support than ever, and there's more focus than ever on diversity. We’ve still got a lot to do, but there's a lot of resources and there's a lot of things that people can do themselves and as companies to try to figure out how we can do it. And it's not just signing statements, but at least it feels there’s a good start and more information.

 

Louisa

I guess, looking away from startup on the investment side, I'm constantly working with HR teams, and naturally the businesses that have HR teams are the business the size of Oxford Properties, JLL or, massive businesses, they're really pushing for a diverse talent pool for all the reasons you guys said earlier, a diverse mindset helps you innovate and work harder, it's just different way of thinking. But I find it quite difficult to attract from other industries, because of the association between real estate being, one very male dominated but quite archaic. And then technology, which is of the super innovative but also quite male dominated. Kim, why did you choose real estate technology to enter in? What attracted you to it, and how can we make the space more appealing and accessible to women?

 

Kim

Yes, it's a great question and frankly I spend quite a lot of time thinking about it. Here's how I went about that personally. So yes, my first instinct was real estate is the sleepiest industry on Earth, nothing ever changes in the real estate industry. Not my cup of tea, thank you very much. That was my first though, sure I'll have a conversation maybe just to be polite, in a Canadian way. So, one of the things that really got me excited about this opportunity in particular at Oxford, is really around the mandate for change, and the very strong leadership desire to not only shift and change how Oxford is working, and kind of also addressing the real estate industry overall, but also a bit of a mandate to help drive the real estate industry forward as a whole. And so for me, and again, this generally has nothing to do with gender, coming to Oxford was really about being part of an industry shift, and being able to influence the real estate industry as a whole.

 

And then also, taking an organisation and an industry that has a reputation for slow moving change, and accelerating that. And then on the technology side, I think technology is generally exciting. There's no shortage of great stuff going on across every industry within technology. And so, there's always an opportunity to add value. And I think adding value within an organisation that wants to change is the perfect recipe, for an exciting mandate and a really great sense within an organization. So, for me that was the driving force to come to Oxford. And your question was more about how do we make that more attractive and more accessible, to a more diverse set of candidates? And I think a lot of it comes down to organisational culture. Courtney, back to your point early on, did I look to see how diverse the leadership team is within the organisation before I started? Absolutely, I did. Did I look to see was that grown within the organisation, was Oxford hiring in a diverse set of leadership and skills and capability? Absolutely, I looked into all of that all of those things are part and parcel to the kinds of organisations I’d like to work with. So I think that's super important, to your point not only touting the yes, we want to be diverse, but actually showing it and starting to prove that out your actions, I think is super important.

 

The other part of this that I think is really interesting, and probably something a lot of companies have been thrown into in the last few months is the whole notion of flexibility. And so within the real estate space, and this might not be true in startup, so I'll just kind of share my experience, but everybody works in the office all the time. And, you go into work every day, and it's been years and years and years. Having been in technology, it's been a long time since that's the case for me, you maybe go into different offices every day, but it's not the same office every day. So I kind of laughed, because I need to get some better outfits, because everyone's fancy in the office, we walk in with jeans and a nice blazer or whatever. And so I think to bringing an element of flexibility that isn't as traditional in the office all the time, but in the office for purposeful collaboration, but giving individuals the flexibility to work where they need to work, to contribute, when they can contribute, throughout the 24-hour cycle, all of that kind of stuff, I think, is something that the industry as a whole is still working towards. To me, that's been a big difference I'd say, from what I've recognised in the past and something that I think is important in attracting a more diverse candidate pool. You say to somebody, you need to be in the office 24/7, it doesn't work anymore. It's not how it's not how the world works anymore, really.

 

Louisa

Courtney, I guess from a more VC or start up angle, what would you say would make it more accessible?

 

Courtney

To me I think one of the important pieces I think Shopify started doing this, or I've heard from people who are going through the process there that they're really focused on bringing more diverse people into the hiring process. So when you're joining a company talking to hiring manager, but also trying to make sure you get an opportunity to speak to a diverse group of people. And I think that's one piece and then it doesn't have to be the person you're reporting in to, it could be somebody else in the organisation who is a real cultural ambassador who you can speak to about what the culture is and ask questions. And then just give you a sense hopefully that's the case, that the organisation is very accepting to different kinds of people. But I think that the hiring process is an important key because you're interviewing the candidate, but the candidate is also interviewing you. So you want to make sure that the best parts of your culture and organisation are also included as part of that process. So that's one I think there's lots of things that companies can do. And I think that there's great organisations that are starting to share more information for startups particularly, because it's hard for startups, they don't they have a lot of resources, they often don't have a head of HR, or maybe they have a head of talent, but everyone is really busy and stretched.

 

So, I think that there's some really great groups, and they're creating diversity guides and tips for startups specifically. So again, more resources. There's a company called Crescendo based in Toronto I believe, and I was talking to a company that is a user of them, and what they do is small nudges to keep diversity top of mind and to help companies understand there are learning moments, and include that in. So I think that it's hard to think about how do you do starting with the diverse teams from the beginning, including diversity in your hiring process, in terms of bringing in people within your organisation, as well as really expanding your search and trying to find ways to tap into more diverse candidate pools. And then within the company, trying to figure out what can you do to make sure that you're thinking about how to have a diversity inclusion, and it doesn't have to be a massive project. We have to start where you are and start with what are the small things that we can do? Again, I think it's going to be individuals as well as companies trying to stay focused on it. And, just do what you can just to start.

 

Louisa

I guess it's looking at changes at the micro and macro level, a major change could be large businesses who have the capital to hire had a Head of Diversity team. That's a big hire, it's costly and it's a full time to the job doing these tiny little changes, and then getting it ingrained into people that you really need to focus on it. On a day to day, it should become second nature. And we've nearly gone through a whole podcast about mentioning of the Coronavirus, and I think you guys just gone back into lockdown, so have we. Courtney, I feel that you might have some statistics on this. Coronavirus has impacted everyone, health reasons but the knock-on effects of job losses, has it impacted women more or not? What have you seen?

 

Courtney

I don't have a good sense of this firsthand, but McKinsey put out a woman in the workplace study a couple months ago, and they interviewed 40,000 people at over 300 companies. And it was not a good outcome based on what they were hearing. So, kids are at home and I am not in that situation, but it seems an impossible task, and how do you focus on work and making sure your kids are in school, or be kept busy and are actually doing their virtual school. And then all of the other stress and uncertainty that comes with everything we've lived through during the pandemic. And so, their study was showing that women were shouldering more of that responsibility, that women were more likely to have been laid off or furloughed through the crisis. I think that the service industry has been impacted more than others, and there's many women that are in some of the jobs that have been affected. So, I hope that as you get back, it isn't the case that that women have dropped out of the workforce, and they're able to get back into the jobs that they were in. SO I hope we don't go backwards, I hope this is top of mind and we don't see it, but based on their study it was showing that women had been disproportionately affected.

 

Louisa

I'm thinking that Kim, as someone who's been in technology a lot longer than I have and experienced firsthand, in this space, the idea of flexible working and be able to do it from home hopefully in the future, we'll see less of an impact on women or maybe finding more of a balance at home?

 

Kim

Yes, it's interesting, you would think that. And again the last few months I think pretty much every organisation has taken a giant leap into their digital transformation needs and desires, everyone's working from home, which is fantastic. And again for some organisations, that was a big relief, I don't know that it changes a whole lot. And maybe it changes a little bit, but I still think that the accountability for someone who needs to look after children while they are trying to work, even in their home is probably more complex in some ways, then actually picking up and going to the office. And so, it's a really interesting conundrum I think. I'm not in that space. I have teenagers and it's difficult for me, I can't imagine young ones, and the stress that ensues as a result of that, and needing to be on calls and focused and getting work done.

 

Courtney

There is a light at the end of the tunnel, we're starting to see good news on vaccines and trying to keep kids in school as much as we can. Because it's just trying to work triple duty is very difficult on everyone.

 

Kim

It's not sustainable. I think that's the thing, I think it's okay for a little bit and people manage through, but it's not sustainable. And so I think there's more to come on the impacts, should we need to sustain this for a few months longer!

 

Louisa

I think Courtney and I have been trying to both balance having a young puppy, and we're struggling with that.

 

Kim

That comes with its challenges as well, I'm sure.

 

Louisa

And I guess this is bringing us nearly to the end show, but final question for both you and Courtney and go first. So say an employer or employee was listening, if you had to give one thing, what would the one thing be to evoke change and balance in our industry?

 

Courtney

Hard question! I think that we all need to recognise the biases that we have and so I think we talked about many tactics that people can use. And I think that there's more and more information out in the world about how we can do better on diversity and inclusion. But I think that on a day to day basis, I think people taking stock of what their biases might be, and trying to educate themselves a little bit more, and really just trying to be thoughtful about how do you make people feel comfortable. Everyone in the room, often it starts from the leadership but it doesn't matter if you're in a leadership position or not, I think that how do you think every day about the other people that you work with, and what you could be doing to help, or the things that you could be doing that are detrimental to making people feel comfortable to bring their full selves to work. And so as we build more diverse teams, and naturally there becomes more inclusivity, because there's more people who do different things, but trying to be conscious of what might not be comfortable for some people, what experiences other people might have not had, and so trying to focus on creating opportunities for everyone to feel comfortable, and focusing on things where there is commonality. And just really trying to be conscious of what you might be doing to help or to potentially make people feel uncomfortable.

 

Louisa

And Kim, what would be your number one thing to evoke change.

 

Kim

Courtney I totally agree with what you're talking about around just being mindful of conversations and how you hire, and the biases you bring and how that affects the decisions and direction. The other thing that just comes to mind is that we all have an accountability to support each other, through what is a long journey, let's call it. And so, being open about concerns, perceptions, ideals, proactively engage in constructive dialogue. Sometimes I'm like, hey, I kind of noticed that was a bit awkward, call it out and be transparent about it. I feel that sometimes as individuals and leaders, if we don't know the answer we tend not to address it.

 

And I would say some of the answers here and some of the ways to approach these things are not natural for everybody. And it's not clear sometimes what the answer is, but the more you talk about it, the more you bring it to the forefront and actively address it, proactively address it, I think the more change will come. And then, the last kind of tip that I want to add here is that, as organisations start to really internalise this, the culture and the mindset within whether it's startups or large global organizations, it needs to be crafted and molded both in small ways and big. So it needs to be declared in a focus at the leadership table and part of the strategy. And then it also needs to be demonstrated and adjusted and corrected on a daily basis. And I would say, we all have a role to play towards that. Again, regardless of your role in the organisation, we have a job to do to make sure that we're creating a more equitable environment for everybody. Those are the things that come to mind.

 

Louisa

Thank you both so much for joining me on the podcast, I feel we’ve had to touch on a hell of a lot. And hopefully those who are listening in wherever you work, in a bigger business, smaller business, employer or employee, you can just be mindful. It's about taking consideration like everyone who we're working with, and those who are looking to enter the industry, join associations, mentors. I feel like there's so there's so many ways that you can learn about space before you move into it. But its a good space to be in, it's going to be ever changing. And also, if you want to connect with Courtney and Kim, I'm sure they'd be happy to chat. But Courtney, what's the best way for people to connect with Alate, you and the PropTech Collective?

 

Courtney

LinkedIn, I would say. You can add me on LinkedIn, send me a note or you can reach out to me courtney@alatepartners.com.

 

Louisa

Awesome. And Kim, what about you?

 

Kim

Yes, same LinkedIn is the path to get in touch for sure. And like you said earlier, I'm at Oxford Properties you probably look me up there. But I'd be happy to engage in conversation.

 

Louisa

Thank you both for joining us on the podcast and I'll catch up with you after the show. Thank you for joining us this week on the podcast and a big thanks to our special guests. Make sure you visit our website www.lmre.co.uk where you can subscribe to our show, or you'll find us on iTunes and Spotify where all good content is found. While you're at it, if you found value in the show, we'd appreciate it if you could rate and review us on iTunes or if you simply spread the word. Be sure to tune in next Tuesday, and I'll catch you later.

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