Supporting gender diversity – Interview with Emma Vigus, AON

Supporting gender diversity and encouraging conversations to support the growth of women across the industry, David Phillips talks to Emma Vigus, Business Development Director at AON.

Emma Vigus, Business Development Director at AON | BTR News
Emma Vigus, Business Development Director at AON.

Emma is Business Development Director in the real estate team at AON, where she specialises in developing insurance and risk management solutions for real estate investors. She also chairs Women in Residential Property, a group she founded in 2017 to foster collaboration and knowledge-sharing among women working across the residential property industry. Emma’s 15-year track record in property includes a post as CCO for a property search company and MD of an early-stage proptech.

Have you ever struggled to progress in your career?

Everyone does. Especially people who are ambitious and want a rewarding, interesting career. If it’s important, it’s worth fighting for! I’ve not struggled because of my gender but because it remains rare that sales and marketing professionals rise into positions above people with more technical qualifications.

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

Yes, particularly in sales roles, where I have always done lots of networking. If you’re one of a minority, you’ll stand out. Knowing how to make that work for you in a positive way can be helpful in starting conversations. Overall, the gender split in our industry is improving, as I saw at MIPIM ’22 – but it’s happening sector-by-sector.

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

I don’t have children and I think that’s made it much easier for me than it is for many women. Other than that hard work, a lot of energy, courage, and having the gift of the gab.  Luck plays a huge role, too, in both individual and business success. One thing that would have helped me be more successful is self-belief. A lack of it once stopped me from going for an amazing job I was offered because I didn’t think I’d be able to do it (and I could have).

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?

The residential property industry needs to be repositioned to make it more attractive to potential recruits. Mainstream media coverage is often about rising house prices, housing shortages and bad landlords – so why would people choose to work in such an industry?

Also, most people in frontline roles are not particularly well paid. So, before it starts to think about how to influence women to get involved, the industry needs to make itself more attractive and to accentuate the positive. And it needs to get better at developing the next generation of leaders.

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?

There’s a fantastic future for women in the industry. Support for women through professional support networks like Women in Residential Property (WIRP) is very strong, and women are leading the way and setting the example. At a recent WIRP lunch there was a real sense of excitement about the opportunities.

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

As someone who grew up in the 1970s, I was inspired by Margaret Thatcher, who seemed to me to be the first woman strongly present in a leadership role. She showed women what was possible even if we didn’t agree with her politics. I also took notice of high-profile women in the creative industries, like Vivienne Westwood as they presented a compelling alternative to the more traditional careers like Law.   

There are lots of fantastic people working in property and I am inspired on a daily basis by what the industry collectively produces and provides. I’m not keen on singling people out, but I am inspired by people who embrace creative thinking and blend resilience with a willingness to support others.