This year, the theme for International Women’s Day (8th March 2023) is “DigitALL: Innovation and technology for gender equality”. Join us as we celebrate the innovative women working in proptech to create a world free of bias, stereotypes, and discrimination. In this interview, we’ll be talking with Sián Hemming-Metcalfe, Operations Director at Inventory Base.
What does International Women’s Day mean to you?
For me, International Women’s day represents an invaluable opportunity to pause and reflect on the incredible accomplishments of women worldwide, while also acknowledging the work that still lies ahead in our pursuit of true equality.
It’s a chance to stand in solidarity with one another, uplift and empower each other, and explore fresh avenues for guidance, mentorship, and inspiration.
As the dynamic realm of proptech continues to grow, International Women’s Day should galvanise us all to seize this moment and showcase the limitless and untapped potential of women in our field and light the trail of progress and innovation to inspire future generations of women to forge a career in proptech.
What are the challenges facing women in proptech today?
As someone who started working life on a totally different career path, I’ve only been in the world of proptech for a short period of time but I can already see that one of the key challenges facing women is centred around a lack of representation, noticeably at leadership level.
As my own experience is limited, I did a bit of research on this question and I came across a worrying statistic that highlights the fact that women currently hold only 26.7% of tech-related jobs. and that the percentage of women in tech-related careers has been decreasing over the last 2 years.
This begs the question, why? What is happening to fuel this decline and what can be done to halt and reverse this trend?
This really needs so much more thought and understanding to drill down into the crux of these issues so I hope we continue to tackle them beyond International Women’s Day.
Can you share a story about a woman who inspires you?
Dame Stephanie Shirley is someone that I have been following since my venture into Proptech.
As a 5-year-old, she was transported to Britain in 1939, fleeing the war with her elder sister. In the 1960’s she founded a software company and built it into a multimillion-dollar business. She’s used her experiences and success to support causes she cares deeply about, including autism research and women’s rights.
Dame Shirley’s book Let It Go: My Extraordinary Story – From Refugee to Entrepreneur to Philanthropist is being turned into a series and I cannot wait to see it brought to life so that the world can really know this remarkable 89-year-old woman who is still giving back to society.
What progress have you seen in gender equality in your industry over the past year?
I consider myself lucky in that I already work alongside amazing women in my company, where gender equality is already a core component of our diversity policy. But I have observed a significant shift in the industry, where women are leading the discussion and setting the pace of progress through their inventive solutions. By simply being visible, present, and heard in an industry that is now more open-minded, they are leading the charge for greater inclusivity.
How can we ensure women are included in proptech conversations?
To ensure women are included in the conversation, we need to actively seek out and amplify women’s voices. But not just for the sake of ticking a box but because they have so much to offer and say.
I’d also like to see more mentorship and networking opportunities that are not just centred around those that are up and coming but also for those women who are already in proptech, working behind the scenes, keeping the wheels of continual change turning and who are making amazing contributions but as yet, remain in the background.
How can others advance gender equality and be better allies to women?
Gender equality can be advanced by actively challenging and calling out any type of sexist behaviour, and promoting women’s voices and accomplishments.
Equally, we must support men so that they feel enabled to provide that support to their female colleagues without the fear of ridicule and or being maligned because they aren’t living up to the male stereotype of being the only person able to lead a proptech company or any company for that matter!
How can we encourage more women to pursue careers in male-dominated fields in the industry?
It’s essential that we create a culture based on support and inclusivity. We need the right infrastructure that helps women manage the challenges of being a parent or co-parent as well as dealing with more female-centric issues such as menopause.
We must also make sure that the issues surrounding mental health are actively addressed and built into company policies so that it becomes part of a wider culture of support.
What policies/initiatives promote women’s empowerment and gender equality?
Pay gaps, whether perceived or actual, can be very detrimental to the progress of women in proptech. Reporting on pay, incentives and how the industry as a whole is reducing the gap as well as seeking out and addressing any inequalities is key to ensuring that a woman’s earning potential is fair and reflective of a company’s workforce.
Flexible working arrangements to help families manage parenting in the modern age, and unconscious bias training to help people understand why their perceived attitudes towards women and each other are holding back progress and that there is a need to challenge outdated beliefs for the benefit of all.
What message do you have for young women starting their careers in proptech?
This is a difficult question because I think my experiences are not necessarily reflective of those who have been operating in the industry for far longer than me.
But what I would say is that, do what you love, what makes you the happiest and if you see negative behaviour or are subject to any type of misogyny or sexism, call it out. It’s easy to say, I know, but unless we challenge those behaviours and beliefs we cannot progress and grow.
Find someone you trust and confide in them and let them help you find the strength to be proud of what you do and who you are.
What steps can we take on International Women’s Day and beyond to support women and advance gender equality?
Definitely don’t rest on our laurels and think that one day of recognition will fix all the problems associated with being a woman in proptech.
We need to keep the conversation open and continually add to it via social media, representation at conferences and on boards, as well as how we act as individuals so that we too hold ourselves accountable when we behave in a poor way or are less than supportive.
Also, remember that this is and should never be about ‘us and them’; equality is for all so we each need to offer our support and make the opportunities our foremothers worked so hard for and sacrificed so much so that we can have a voice.
Share your story using #IWD23 and #EmbraceEquity on social media.