The property industry has come a long way to create a more diverse environment, but there is still much more to do to ensure its inclusive nature in the long term. In the latest episode of PropCast, Martin Prince-Parrott, Founder of Sub\Urban Workshop and Muyiwa Oki, Architectural Manager at Mace and a 2023 RIBA Presidential candidate discuss barriers, corporate social responsibility and how the built environment can be more diverse.
The property sector has reached a new frontier in being more open and outspoken about the barriers and lack of diversity in the industry. In spite of progress made, there is still room for more diversity in senior roles in the industry.
“I think we have to be mature and we have to basically say: look there’s only so much businesses can do,” says Martin Prince-Parrott, Founder of Sub\Urban Workshop which develops RESI for scale, “the other side of that is: are they doing everything they can do? Are they ensuring their recruitment is blind, for example, with regards to names?”
Muyiwa Oki, from Mace and a 2023 presidential candidate for RIBA, believes that to achieve true diversity in the industry, it must be thought of as intersectional: accounting for ethnicity, socioeconomic background, gender, race and more. Although there has been an uptick of charities and private networks seeking to increase diversity in property, Oki’s presidential run is motivated partly due to wanting to tackle the disproportionate lack of representation in senior leadership teams.
“There are roles in higher office where there should be more representation, and no one talks about that,” says Oki, “the shift of the lever doesn’t move to the senior leadership.”
This is what Oki calls the “pioneer” phase of diversity in property. “I think you need to recognise how far we have come over the past 10 years of me being a professional and 20 years of me being in the UK,” he says.
Both Prince-Parrott and Oki ultimately agree that the industry is making strides in the right direction, but the next phase is seeing more diversity in leadership roles.
“We need to be in a place where everyone is accepted, and the differences are celebrated. It’s where your human characteristics aren’t the thing that just define you,” says Oki.
“Once you have a difference in leadership, we’ll move into a different phase,” says Prince-Parrott, “But I genuinely don’t feel like until leadership becomes more diverse that we will see change. Not because the desire isn’t there, but because it’s really hard to think about what it’s like to enter the world of property as a woman when you’re male. And I think trying is probably going to go wrong.”
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