Supporting gender diversity – Interview with Rosie Cooke, SmartRent

Supporting gender diversity and encouraging conversations to support the growth of women across the industry, David Phillips talks to Rosie Cooke, UK Marketing and Operations Manager, SmartRent.

Rosie Cooke, UK Marketing and Operations Manager, SmartRent | BTR News
Rosie Cooke, UK Marketing and Operations Manager, SmartRent.
Women in Leadership facilitated by David Phillips | BTR News

Following a career in recruitment, Rosie switched to working as a teaching assistant when she had children, for the flexibility and engagement the role offered. She encountered SmartRent after setting up a LinkedIn agency, where it was one of her clients. The US-based enterprise smart home building technology platform is expanding in the UK and Europe, making it easier for organisations and development owners to manage student or Build to Rent assets.

Have you ever struggled to progress in your career?

Yes. It’s hard to find a job that fits around being a primary caregiver for children. When I was looking, around nine years ago, teaching assistant or supermarket work was pretty much all that was suitable. There are more flexible options now, and being a business owner offers that flexibility, too.

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

I think that in general, women have organisational and task-juggling skills that give them an advantage in the workplace.

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

I’m still aware of a gender gap in marketing. At certain trade shows there’s a sea of suits and at an event in Germany I was one of the only women in the room. In the last couple of years there’s been more flexible working available, which opened the door for me. The new generation doesn’t see obstacles as we did, and has more flexibility.

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?

Because the Build to Rent sector is relatively new, there are more women in leadership roles and that’s something we may see in other emerging sectors: there needs to be more and more support for this. I think we need to build on the blended working that the pandemic has introduced. It has shown that people can work effectively when they are given the freedom and knowledge to get work done – there’s no need to be in the office five days a week. Schools, for their part, should be educating students more about the multitude of roles and options open to them, other than the university path.

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?

I think we’re seeing things start to change, with women coming through into leadership roles. My advice would be – just go for it. It’s up to us to make change happen. We just need to keep knocking on doors till they open.

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

I’m relatively new to the industry but I have been impressed by Lesley Roberts of Allsop, who is also UKAA president. In recruitment, I would mention Sarah Stevenson, who is a regional director at Hays in an industry that is less gender balanced at senior levels.

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.