Supporting gender diversity – Interview with Laura Woollard, Lavanda

Supporting gender diversity and encouraging conversations to support the growth of women across the industry, David Phillips talks to Laura Woollard, VP Marketing, Lavanda.

Laura Woollard, VP Marketing, Lavanda | BTR News
Laura Woollard, VP Marketing, Lavanda.

Laura started her career in HR and Payroll marketing SaaS Solutions and for a number of years led the marketing department for a large global provider. She moved into the world of real estate in 2018 and latterly worked at RealPage, one of the largest real estate software and data analytics companies in the world, where she headed up their European and New York marketing operation. In August she made the move to take up the role of VP Marketing at Lavanda, a technology company who provide property management software and short stay solutions for multifamily, co-living and student providers globally. 

Have you ever struggled to progress in your career? 

Yes, definitely, after having my first child just over ten years ago there was a period of time where it felt harder than usual to progress due to the fact that I simply did not have the time required to be perceived to be working as hard as my male colleagues. I felt that it was completely unnecessary to commit to long ten hour stints at my desk to get my job done effectively. I am now lucky to work somewhere with a fantastic culture which means I have a great balance, but unfortunately in some companies that isn’t always the case, and the pace of progression can be hampered. 

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

I sincerely hope not! I think there has been a welcome shift in ensuring more equality and diversity whether it be on boards, speaking panels or senior leadership teams. I would hate to think I have been favoured over male counterparts for a role and would expect that my skills and experience are what led to my success, otherwise where is the equality? 

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

Firstly, I found an area of my profession I am really passionate about, then niched – I have always been in SaaS marketing, but to be able to apply that to an exciting industry like real estate and particularly the fast paced innovative world of proptech, has been a brilliant career move. Secondly, I have worked hard to foster relationships in the industry, my network is incredibly important to me. Thirdly, being hyper focused on understanding the industry and how it is changing. Wrapping a strategic mindset around that knowledge and applying it to growing the business through effective marketing, is a winning formula.

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?

In the world of proptech the nature of designing, building, and developing cutting edge software require roles that appear to be more male dominated, but that is changing. 

All children and young people need to be more widely educated about the types of jobs available in business, so they can start to think about the subjects and grades they might need in the future. I clearly remember the career advice I was given at school. I was asked to name two things I liked, so as a pony mad teenager, I said 1. Animals and 2. Being outdoors – the career advice was to become a zoo keeper! Thankfully career advice has moved on, but there is a way to go in educating young teenagers about the opportunities and variety of roles in real estate business and technology.

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? 

When I think about the future for women in property, I see one word, opportunity! But my advice is believe in yourself. A good friend who is a career coach to graduates setting out into the world of work told me that there is still sadly a marked difference in the way young women approach the roles they go for and the interview and offer process. Men go in with clear expectations of what role they want and the salary they expect and typically achieve their objective, whereas women generally accept what is offered. This really needs to change, and it simply comes down to believing in yourself and your worth. 

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

Over the past few years I have admired Mandisa Khabo at Greystar – she is an absolute authority in her sphere. I have watched her present and speak on many occasions and she delivers compelling and insightful sessions.