In Conversation with Women in Property | Annie Scott

March 8, 2023

This year at CIM, we’re celebrating women in property during IWD week. We are seeking to spark a conversation about how to encourage greater female participation across the industry and spreading the word on this year’s campaign theme #EmbraceEquity.

Over the last few years, female industry leaders have seen the situation improve, with better gender equity, lower gender pay gaps, and more room in leadership and technical roles. The key is to maintain this progress, avoid going backwards and recognise that while there has been growth, there is still significant room for improvement.

A number of inspiring and resilient women are doing great things across the property industry’s leading firms, and we’re grateful to have interviewed some of them for our Q&A blog series. We’ve realised that advocating for equal opportunities isn’t enough, and as the trailblazers put it, “Only if the industry itself more accurately reflects wider society, will the country’s property be the very best it can be.”

In this feature, we interview Centuria’s State Manager for Facilities, Annie Scott.

With significant consulting and entrepreneurial experience under her belt, Annie’s vision for progressive facilities management is inspiring; she sees FMs as custodians of the workplace user experience, and the catalysts for a community-centric sustainable built environment. With a decade of work in facilities, operations and asset management, procurement, compliance, and systems implementations, Annie now leads a team of FMs across a diverse portfolio and is the current WA FMA committee Chair.

Here are the key takeaways from our insightful conversation with Annie, and the full Q&A.

CIM X Annie Scott: Key Insights 

  • Women who aspire to be leaders need to remain authentic, assertive, and passionate about their jobs. Women don’t often start on the same level. Levelling the play field is everyone's responsibility, not just women‘s.
  • Develop and cultivate a strong network. Supporting each other matters.
  • Visibility is everything, showcasing women in leadership roles with a different skill set than a traditional model is important. Critical thinking is needed about what seems like a leadership trait versus what is an actual leadership trait.
  • Recognise the contributions of women in all roles, whether senior leaders or not; it’s not only women who are in leadership positions that are demonstrating very important values that we should aspire to.

CIM X Annie Scott: Q&A

1. Career

Q: Tell us about your career progression so far. Why did you decide to join the property industry and what’s kept you here?

A: I think anyone who has started in FM when I did kind of fell into it .

For me it was almost coincidental; some of my experience obviously related to facility management and operations, but it was just more of answering a job ad back then. It’s been almost 12 years since I started as a facility manager.

Real Estate encompasses facility / operations management, property management, asset management, and fund management etc… the sector offers a lot of diversity. I think that's why I stayed. What I related to within my everyday job was making the end user experience better, it's tangible and very rewarding.

2. Words to Go By 

Q: What challenges have you faced professionally, and what advice do you have for younger women to help them navigate these?

A: There are challenges every day, unconscious biases that we often need to push through.

When I first started, challenges often stemmed from gender biases “You're not technical enough, you're not hard enough… or, you're too soft, - you're too passionate…” while current challenges are under-representation and inadequate support, there is still a gender pay gap in 2023, it is not moving fast enough for me. Statistics around the challenges we face are still dire. Structural problems require structural solutions, with deliberate and intentional leadership, we can turn these stats around.

For me it was about building enough resilience to just break through this model which was not made for women. I am confident now in my skill set and I have recognised that I need to be part of the change and to offer support to women regardless of them being my colleague or not. I am always open for a conversation.

When it comes to operations, there isn’t enough representation – therefore we tend to be compared to another older model. At my level of leadership now, again we women are very unrepresented and at times one still needs to prove and justify their position. (Obviously my company recognises it, but I’m referring to what happens outside of my organisation). There’s this constant chase and it is tiring at times.

My first piece of advice to younger women would be to build a network of like-minded individuals who can support you through the journey, whether they are sitting within your organisation or outside of it. 

Reset expectations, the change starts with you and you need to be part of it .

There are challenges a person entering the industry now won't have to face, because some other women have paved the way.

A strong network around you provides support when challenges arise. Perhaps get a mentor that can assist you to navigate some challenges …choose someone that challenges you to. I always try to have more than one.

Another one is to be authentic!

“Breaking the mould is difficult, women don’t often start on the same level. Raising women's profile and levelling the playing field is everyone's responsibility, not just women‘s.” 

Talent, drive and passion is not replaceable. So don’t change who you are and do not take no for an answer. 

I would recommend supporting each other, and not working against each other. That’s very, very important, because we’re under-represented, we all have different skill sets that are valuable. There is more room, and more positions that will become available, celebrate other women's accomplishments, stay supportive through it all. That’s very important. Rising by lifting others is so rewarding.

3. From Equality to Equity

Q: The IWD 2023 #EmbraceEquity campaign theme seeks to get the world talking about why "equal opportunities are no longer enough". Equality focuses on providing all genders with equal opportunities. Yet, women often require more than a level playing field. What are some ways that this could play out in the professional world of property? How can we embrace a culture that actively promotes and supports women, as we move from equality to equity?

A: I think you need to bring it back to the basics. 

There are multiple barriers to a gender equal world, societal and cultural; and there are the structural and organisational barriers. Historical unconscious bias - women who are assertive and straightforward… not push-overs, are labelled as bossy, etc…

Recognising those exist is a first step.

Often when the word equity is used people have a perception of it's unjust or unfair. Promoting what equity is and looks like helps. 

Demonstrating your intention and commitment to diversity, if a positive workplace culture or your commitment to equity isn’t visible, women won’t feel supported.

In a nutshell, don’t hesitate, develop rising women and set a clear path to women in leadership roles.

4. Embracing Technology

Q: The United Nations is observing this year’s IWD under the theme, “DigitALL: Innovation and technology for gender equality”. Do you have any advice for companies looking to empower women to join the digital revolution?

A: The digital revolution brings immense potential to improve social and economic outcomes for women.

There is a lot of research with advice for companies looking to empower women. The UN is doing a lot of work and has released a few publications around the implications of technology and the gender gap. The first step for companies would be to ensure those challenges are understood to build a sustainable path.

“Marketing campaigns and content need to showcase inclusive language and be free of biases.” 

5. Women in Leadership Roles

Q: How might we improve ratios in senior leadership roles?

It's not rocket science. Companies have to embrace change.

Embrace the different skillsets develop women and articulate why gender diversity is important. Promote women into leadership roles and set a path for change, become comfortable having the hard conversations and challenge traditional views. 

Also ensure the workplace has flexible work practices.

6. Women in Technical Roles 

Q: How can we encourage more women to join technical roles, and nurture more FMs, more mechanical contractors, more engineers etc…?

A: I think from an educational standpoint, there's a lot happening to promote women in engineering at the University level. 

There's a lot of cultural and professional shifts happening, and visibility around your intentions as a company and industry is very, very important. 

The paths are becoming clearer, especially coming out of university. 

The industry and the industry associations are working on it.

At a company level, again it is about visibility, and visible role models.

This could also mean graduate programs that target young women, or apprenticeships in mechanical work that promote supportive environments for young girls to get in to.

7. Role Models 

Q: Which women leaders in property do you look up to and why?

A: I don't think that way (i.e. pinpoint it to one leader), I never did. There hasn’t been a lot of role models for me, I had to shift my thinking and adapt it to capture particular skills in leadership that I would aspire to. I guess it made me look with a wider lens which am grateful for. If I look in the facilities operational field, there are still very few women in leadership.

“As far as showing true leadership goes, I think that it's not only women in leadership positions that demonstrate important values that one should aspire to.” 

8. Learning From Your organisation 

Q: What are some great examples of how your company has empowered females?

A: On top of participating in programs designed to champion women in the property industry?

I'm sitting here! This is example 101 - sitting in front of you.

Promoting a woman into State Lead in Facilities is clearly being supportive of a different skill set, and being supportive of women in operations. 

CIM Team
March 8, 2023