Together with her business partner, Andrea Carpenter, Viktorija is co-founder of Women Talk Real Estate, a non-profit organisation aimed at promoting the visibility of women in the real estate industry
I have worked in real estate for fifteen years, the last ten of which I’ve been involved in the planning and delivery of industry conferences and events across Europe, so I’ve long been aware of the gender gap that exists within our industry, especially when it comes to the visibility of women at high profile events.
This lack of visibility is quantifiable. At European real estate conferences, an average of only 14% of speakers are women, a number that does not reflect the true level of female expertise within our industry. The low level of visibility has a negative impact on the balance in the real estate debate and on women’s chances of career progression. Hence, Andrea and I started thinking about practical solutions to address the problem.
As a first step we decided to build a database of female industry experts. Essentially, this is a meeting place for event organisers and female professionals who are offering their expertise in various areas of the industry. Through this online service, Women Talk Real Estate will then help promote female professionals to event organisers and journalists for speaking opportunities at events and contributions for news and features in the industry press. The aim is to sign up 100 female professionals in the first year, increasing to 300 in year two. This web-based database service will be free of charge for the female professionals, event organisers and journalists.
It is clear, however, that a database alone will not solve the underlying problem, which is that women seem to be less eager to put themselves forward than men. There’s no doubt that one contributing factor to the low level of female participation is what we call the confidence gap (something we believe is not restricted to the real estate industry). There’s much evidence to show that even at expert level, women are often hesitant when it comes to promoting themselves. Hence, in addition to providing the database, Women Talk Real Estate will also offer targeted training courses in presentation skills and public speaking.
It is our intention that funding for Women Talk Real Estate shall be provided by the industry itself, something we believe is possible as the industry has a clear and stated interest in increasing gender diversity.
We are still in the early stages of the fundraising process but we have already got six founding sponsors on board, so hopefully we will continue to be able to raise the funds that we need.