After an early career in media and publishing, Jo switched direction to pursue a career in law, and after completing her Law degree she moved into private practice at a firm specialising in property management law. Her firm had spotted an opportunity to target the then nascent Build to Rent space, and following this early exposure, a passion for the sector was ignited. Following operational roles within the legal space and then to one of the property sectors longest standing organisations, LSL Property Services, Jo moved into her current role at what is now the UK’s largest, specialist Build to Rent lease-up company, Home Made.
Have you ever struggled to progress in your career?
Historically, the property industry has been very male-dominated, and many of the sectors longest standing organisations have inherited a legacy of sexist behaviour. It’s a challenge, and sadly something I have experienced first-hand.
Thankfully however, it has changed a lot in the past five years, no doubt influenced to a degree by the Me Too movement. Now, many more women occupy top positions within the property sector and there are huge opportunities, with women leading the way.
Have you felt that being a woman has given you an advantage in the industry?
I hope not! In my view, everything should be about equality. I’m less interested in questions of gender. It should be more about talent and what everyone can bring to the table.
Given the industry’s gender gap in leadership, how did you reach your level of success?
Getting out of organisations that did not have the right culture and values was a clear goal for me. Culture is everything. It runs through the entire business and it’s hard to retrofit. Home Made has a very strong culture and huge diversity that’s driven from the top. It’s very empowering. And although it’s unusual in the industry it’s not unique: lots of prop-techs are leading the way on gender balance and diversity.
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?
I’m Chair of the UKAA Build to Rent quality and training working group, and one of our mandates is about increasing exposure for all of the different careers available in Build to Rent. It’s about professionalising the sector, communicating what it does and showing that there are strong career paths. We work with schools, universities, and careers fairs to spread the message. There are lots of degrees available and plenty of interest from applicants, but the sector still isn’t attracting the talent It needs. Prop-tech is exciting, in particular for younger applicants, and apprenticeship programmes and internships could help, too.
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 looks very positive. It’s an exciting space and it’s only going to grow. Build to Rent in particular is growing fast: it offers a diversity of careers, and opportunities for multiple skillsets. For the next generation of female leaders I’d point out that there are lots of women out there ready to mentor you and help out. Join associations, reach out on LinkedIn and get back to in-person networking when it becomes possible again.
Who inspired you/are your role models and who do you admire in the industry?
I’m inspired by women who haven’t had to compromise their values and integrity to achieve great things. Three names that spring to mind are Tracey Hartley, who is Head of Residential at JLL/The Crown Estate, Stephanie Smith, Director of Residential Operations at Invesco and Katherine Rose, Managing Director of VervLife.
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.