Supporting gender diversity: Interview with Cath Webster, Quintain

Supporting gender diversity and encouraging conversations to support the growth of women across the industry, David Phillips talks to Cath Webster, Executive Director of Strategy & Investment, Quintain.

Cath Webster, Executive Director of Strategy & Investment, Quintain | BTR News
Cath Webster, Executive Director of Strategy & Investment, Quintain.
Women in Leader facilitated by David Phillips | BTR News

Interview with Cath Webster – Executive Director of Strategy & Investment, Quintain

Cath took a circuitous route to her current role, following her studies in real estate finance with roles in surveying and in both investment and lending. After a range of senior roles in private equity, fund management and investment banking, Cath switched to the client side in her current role as Executive Director of Strategy & Investment at Quintain.

Have you ever struggled to progress in your career?

The options were more limited at the beginning: at the university milk round interviews, the only companies hiring in the sector were agencies. And among the finance interviews I had, one told me that finance wouldn’t be for me because I was a woman. Needless to say, I didn’t go on to work for that particular firm. There remains some unconscious and conscious bias today, but much less so than in the 1990s.

Have you felt that being a woman has given you an advantage in the industry?

You get noticed more in a sea of blue suits! And having a different pitch of voice means that when you speak, people can hear you. As a woman, there are ways to stand out that are memorable and not negative. There is also a fabulous and very supportive network of women in the industry that I’m part of.

Given the industry’s gender gap in leadership, how did you reach your level of success?

Like everyone else, through hard work. I’ve had a constant need and desire to learn and to progress, and along the way I’ve been supported by excellent bosses, both male and female, and have worked in firms that have championed diversity. Overall, the gender gap is something that I haven’t needed to fight against.

What needs to change to inform the next generation of female leaders about the industry and the roles available to them? Do we need more support for women at school level to understand the opportunity?

Yes, we definitely need support at school level, and that should include diversity across the board. It’s not just women who need to know early on about breadth and range of careers that are available in this industry. Quintain runs apprenticeships and school programmes, and people are always surprised by the range of jobs available. It’s on us in the industry to educate potential employees and make a difference here.

What does the future look like for women in property and what advice would you give the next generation of female leaders joining the industry?

It’s definitely looking better than it was in the 1990s. I would advise the next generation to keep learning and don’t get stale – and if your employer doesn’t champion diversity or it doesn’t feel right where you are, then move on. There are still some dinosaurs out there but many organisations that aren’t, and I think diversity is something that will continue to improve.

Who inspired you/are your role models and who do you admire in the industry?

I’ve always had excellent male and female mentors in every job, and they were role models, too. Given how valuable it has been to me, I would always encourage people to be mentors and mentees.

David Phillips – supporting gender diversity in the property industry

At David Philips, we’re committed to gender equality. We strive to create a workplace that reflects the communities we serve, where everyone feels empowered and part of an inclusive workplace culture. 

Whilst female representation in the property market has improved markedly in recent years, there is still work to be done, with only 30% of senior management positions in property occupied by woman. Over the next 12 months we’ll be conducting interviews with some of the industry’s influential woman to share their career stories, the challenges they have overcome and their views on how to address gender gaps within management and senior roles across our industry.  

We continue to push for better representation and recognition for woman. Creating a culture of equality isn’t just the right thing to do, it’s also the smart thing, research shows that diverse companies are more innovative and more profitable. With this series we aim to shine a light on some of the industry’s leading talent and encourage a conversation that continues the drive towards gender equality.