Why more women are looking to the industrial sector
The historically male-dominated industry is aiming to be more inclusive
In the world of commercial real estate, the industrial and logistics sector has long been more male-dominated than others.
As it has moved into being one of the hottest real estate sectors, with investment soaring over the last year, there is a growing focus on addressing diversity.
“We know there needs to be more women in industrial, it just needs to happen,” says Danielle Tadi, an industrial services director at JLL in Melbourne. “Across the industry there is recognition that a better service offering for clients will come with a more diverse workforce that bring a range of skills and experience to historically male-dominated roles.”
The issue in industrial real estate mirrors a similar push for diversity across the broader industry. Women made up approximately 37% of professionals in 2020 in commercial real estate across Canada, the U.S. and the U.K., according to research from the CREW Network.
However, it shows that while over the years sectors like retail and office have benefited from greater gender diversity, women remain underrepresented in the industrial sector.
Slowly but surely, women in the sector say there has been progress.
Bella Cass started working in industrial real estate six years ago. In that time, she says that she’s seen a greater realization that diversity is important.
“I was drawn to industrial because I knew I’d have the opportunity to directly and positively impact supply chains which connect us all globally, which is both exciting and rewarding,” says Cass, an industrial associate at JLL in Sydney. “It was hard to break into industrial because it is very male-dominated, but it’s a thrilling sector to be part of. I have definitely seen positive changes over the past six years since joining the industry including more initiatives to support women which is changing the status quo.”
That changing of the status quo isn’t necessarily translating into leadership positions for women. The challenge of how to retain top talent agency-side remains critical for long-term success.
“With not many women in senior roles, it does make it harder for women in the early stages of their career,” Tadi says. “But things are changing in the sector. In 2017, I was in an executive role and now I am a director with a team of three contributing significantly to the overall team budget.”
Women in senior positions can act as mentors and serve as examples of what can be achieved, two things that can be very important to younger women starting out in their careers.
As an industry, agencies are uniting to support initiatives like Women In Industrial (WIN) to encourage women to join the industrial and logistics sector, and support them so they stay and can prosper.
“Success doesn’t come quickly for anyone in this sector,” Tadi says. “It can take two to three years to get traction, which can be challenging, especially when there aren’t women in senior leadership positions who can be mentors or aspirational examples of success.”
The time is right
Supply chain challenges caused by COVID-19 boosted the profile of industrial real estate, which made up a quarter of all commercial real estate investment globally in 2021, JLL data shows. This boom is having a positive impact on recruiting female employees, says JLL’s head of industrial and occupier services Matthew Lee in Australia.
“Three years ago, if you started talking to the average person about supply chains they would have tuned out but COVID-19 has brought these terms into the mainstream,” he says. “The impact on our day-to-day life means we’re getting a lot more attention, and this in turn is allowing us to try and draw more women into our ranks.”
The focus is on grass roots talent development to create future industrial leaders. Within organisations, this means promoting growth from within, says JLL’s head of logistics and industrial Peter Blade in Australia. “We are creating more opportunities for women at the start of their careers to get at least 18-months of dedicated training at JLL to build career resilience and increase representation,” he says.
Tadi acknowledges there is more to be done to support women over different stages of their careers, particularly with returning to work after maternity leave.
“There needs to be strategies in place to support women so they have the option and feel confident to return to the industry,” she says. “One of the things we are looking at is having more collaboration across teams which would mean an individual wouldn’t lose relevance as quickly when they take time away.”