Supporting gender diversity – Interview with Jennie Fojtik, Quintain

Supporting gender diversity and conversations to support the growth of women, David Phillips talks to Jennie Fojtik, Head of Mobilisation, Quintain.

Jennie Fojtik, Head of Mobilisation, Quintain | BTR News
Jennie Fojtik, Head of Mobilisation, Quintain.

Jennie’s career in property began in 2001 at a London estate agency, where she spent seven years in lettings, working her way up to become an area manager in west London. Looking for a change, Jennie joined Quintain, which was looking for someone to set up its lettings business. As the company developed its Build to Rent strategy, Jennie was an integral part of the team that set up the award-winning lettings and management side to the business, called Quintain Living, heading up lettings and business development. Today, she heads the mobilisation and defects team at Quintain Living. 

Have you ever struggled to progress in your career?

That’s an interesting question. Yes, in the sense of struggling with patience for more exciting opportunities and if you’re passionate and driven to do more, that can be frustrating. More broadly, I think career progress is about having the self-belief and confidence to branch out into new things – and sometimes I may not have pushed myself forward as much as I could.

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

Sometimes. When you’re one of only a few women in a business, it can help people notice you and that can be helpful. Despite this, women still must work to get heard: one piece of advice I’ve been given is that if you’re in a meeting and you’re in a minority, speak first or speak early. It’s a shame we have to consciously think about this but it’s necessary.

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

It’s a combination of hard work and working with great people. When I started in lettings, it was seen as the poor relation of sales – but this really shifted in 2008 when sales began to struggle. Lettings as an industry was already female dominated, in management, leadership and on the ground floor. So, there’s lots of experience and talent already in the UK property sector which could support the growth of Build to Rent. I feel lucky to have been part of this, and to have had the right experience at the right time. I’ve also been lucky to have had leaders who have championed me and the business I’ve been building.

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?

People often stumble into real estate unaware of the vast array of careers available rather than it being a conscious choice. There are fantastic opportunities for a varied work life with rewards, life lessons and opportunities to be had. We need to be talking to people at school about the opportunities and offer alternative routes to a career (apprenticeships for example), because a university education isn’t essential in order for you to be successful in many parts of the industry. People can do well in Build to Rent or property agencies if they are bright, dedicated and passionate.

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?

From a female leadership perspective it’s really bright in Build to Rent. There are lots of women in the sector at a senior level paving the way, and many champions in the UKAA and role models who people can go to for advice. As for advice, I have a couple of tips. Talk about money early in your career and don’t just accept what’s offered: your male counterpart is more likely to negotiate and set a higher career trajectory.

Secondly, if your instinct tells you it’s time for a change, follow it. Don’t stay in one spot because it feels safe, particularly early in your career, you can be braver and bolder when you have fewer responsibilities in life. Finally, surround yourself with the best and hire people who have diverse talents to you. This can be hard (perhaps we feel a pressure to believe we must be the expert), but it’s a critical and empowering leadership shift.

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

I can think of so many role models and amazing people I have worked for and with that it’s hard just to name one or two. In a general sense for role models, I’d say listen carefully to people you don’t agree with as well as those you do – it gives you a broader view and is more likely to stretch your thinking. People who challenge your perceptions can be very inspiring and valuable. As we did in the early days of Build to Rent, it’s also incredibly healthy to look for inspiration outside of the industry – Podcasts and TedTalks are an accessible way to do this.