As part of this year’s Crew UK Real Estate Conference, hosted by Cushman and Wakefield, Agilité’s development director, Kirsty Shearer, was invited to join a panel discussion which explored ‘women in leadership’.
Chaired by Shelley Frost, head of corporate solutions at Cumming Group, and sitting alongside Jennie Dorsaint, partner at Norton Rose Fulbright, and Rebekah Tobias, managing director of Marcol, Kirsty reflected on some of the key learnings from her career to-date. In case you missed the discussion, you can catch up, below:
What is the best leadership skill you’ve learned and who did you learn it from?
When I was 23 and working in my first ‘proper’ job, I was at an event with some very influential people in the industry. It was a classic case of imposter syndrome, and not knowing how I should act, or speak in front of my peers.
My manager at the time stood back and watched how I handled a particular situation, before telling me: “You never have to put up with bad behaviour, no matter who they are.” By empowering me to deal with a situation myself, and the positive reinforcement I gained from how I had handled it, gave me a confidence that has remained with me ever since.
What’s more, I believe it’s important to be authentic because, whether things go right or wrong, at least you know you remained true to yourself, instead of trying to be something you’re not.
Something I’ve learned from being a part of the CREW Network, and which I really believe in, is that as women in the real estate sector, we shouldn’t be coy about discussing our achievements and things that we’re truly proud of.
Finally, conflict resolution is a great leadership skill too. Don’t be afraid to tackle things head on, because when things have time to fester they develop into something much bigger. At the same time, always remember to be prepared to accept feedback – some of which may be hard to hear – and take time to pause and reflect, before responding.
The pandemic has hit women particularly hard...any perspective or insights that you can share from your personal experience?
Firstly, I would say that it’s hit everyone hard, but in different ways. In the case of women, it could be perceived that it’s set females back a little, because of the family divide – but you could also argue that depends on the family dynamic. We need to be prepared to adapt, because the conversation around this topic is still evolving, and businesses are working hard to find the right solution.
What we can’t avoid, is that the past two years have put the work-life balance firmly into perspective – particularly in the sense that it’s vitally important to be upfront about what you do want from your career.
As I’ve learned from experience, it’s much easier to set out your stall and ask for what you want when negotiating your contract, rather than trying to make changes further down the line. If things do alter, though, compile a coherent case which explains how and why you want to work going forwards – it’s in your own hands.
What advice do you have for women regarding leadership skills required to advance?
I believe it’s important to play to your strengths and not try to be all things to all people. It’s easier said than done if you’re building your own company, but I’ve learnt that having the right people in place as you grow – and knowing how each experts’ strengths complement the wider team is key.
You don’t have to be an expert in everything, rather, aim to recruit the very best people you can – and look inwardly at how your skills can support the wider team.
What will it take for more women to progress into executive leadership roles in commercial real estate?
Our industry needs to understand and implement the right support and encouragement for women at the beginning of their careers, as well as nurturing them to remain within real estate as they grow.
We must maintain that ours is an interesting sector for females and allow them to take career breaks as needed – without feeling as though it will have a detrimental effect on their progression.
Employers have the means to go above and beyond basic legislation, particularly around requirements such as maternity/paternity/shared parental leave. Done right, such behavior could encourage staff to be more loyal. After all, the more you give, the more you get.
Kirsty is chair of CREW UK’s communication committee. To find out more about how the organisation is transforming the real estate industry, visit: https://crewnetwork.org/about.
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