Challenging the patriarchal property industry

Businesswoman leaning over desk in office, working in property

Alexandra LiveseyIn this piece, Alexandra Livesey, Chief Operating Officer at Clockwise, a leading flexible workspace provider across the UK and now in Europe (with its latest opening in Brussels), looks at the roles of women in business.

She shares her thoughts on how women have shaped Clockwise’s business policies, its successes and challenged the bias within the wider property and real estate industry. She also looks at how hybrid working is considered a game-changer for underrepresented groups in the workforce, especially women.

As COO at Clockwise, I’m proud to be a woman in property, leading a wonderful group of people and business models.

I recently read an article in Bisnow which revealed women made up 27% of workers in senior leadership positions at the end of 2022, down from 32% in 2016. It made me stop and think about how women are portrayed and sometimes neglected in our industry. Predominately dominated by male senior leadership teams which filter across all employees, the property industry still seems to be stuck in a different era.

When reflecting on our own senior leadership team at Clockwise, I’m proud to note how balanced our team is with more than half filled by women. Furthermore, looking at our wider management teams, women also fill a further 50% of these roles, statistically a rarity within the property industry. These female hires were based on nothing but merit and skill, and have had a big impact on the way things are done within the business.

As a young company we had a real opportunity to create and ingrain an inclusive culture. The senior leadership team have collectively helped to shape our internal company policies, in counsel with colleagues at all levels, which sets us apart from other similar businesses. We have gone from less than 20 employees to over 80 in three years and we’ve been able to grow this team while making considered steps to grow the company culture in a positive and inclusive way. We’re striving for complete inclusivity, naturally that includes women, but our agenda must go beyond, our aims need to be universal and apply to all minority groups or individuals with differing needs. Moving forward I’m committed to focusing not only championing women, but other marginalised groups.

For women, becoming a mother is often a big landmark personally and professionally. We of course recognise this but we also know it’s not only traditional “mothers” that need parental leave or support at this life stage. We have introduced an equal right to parental leave which applies to all individuals experiencing parenthood in a non-traditional way, such as adoptive parents or fathers who may be the main caregiver of their new child. By championing the idea that parenting isn’t just a mother’s responsibility we’re striving for acceptance and parity. We’ve also evolved a new pregnancy loss programme to help support those and their families experiencing loss to give them the time and support they deserve. Not only are we focused on providing schemes to support the personal lives of our employees but this in turn supports our focus on career progression across the company.

Our schemes, and even our product, avoid the hindrance of women’s careers due to their personal lives, which is a relatively new concept for many industries. A recent study by Kings College looked at the rewards for women in hybrid work and found that women do report having a better quality of life as a result. Not only does it improve wellbeing, better work-life balance and reduce costs and time pressures, but it also increased emotional availability and increased autonomy, allowing more space to engage with both work and family. In turn, our product helps to increase capacity for career progression.

I believe the culture that we’ve created at Clockwise is one of the reasons we have so much talent as part of our team, and a strong female presence in an industry not known for its inclusivity. We focus on hiring the best people based on merit and supporting them in whatever they need, whenever they need it – personally or professionally – to ensure everyone has level opportunities to progress in their careers. As a relatively new company, we’ve ensured equality in our programme to enhance schemes that, we as a team, are passionate about and believe are key to a work-life balance.

I believe that a strong agenda and company culture that’s honest, and lives and breathes its values on a day-to-day basis attracts high-performing women. Clockwise has been the new kid on the block in each city we’ve launched in and we’ve experienced a high level of growth since I joined the business three years ago our coverage across the UK has gone from 3 sites to 13, and now we’ve launched in Europe. Having a strong reliable team that I personally can trust is key for me. We have worked hard to make our candidates understand that our culture and the Clockwise values are crucial to our success, they make us a strong and sustainable business but also an enjoyable place to work and progress careers.

When speaking with other members of the team, I was told that having strong female leads in the spotlight at Clockwise has also helped other ambitious women from our sector join the business. It is also heartening to see more women playing a speaking role at key industry events ensuring their voices are heard. The event organisers have recognised the importance of showcasing diversity and perspective on conversations leading the industry, which widens the impact that it has on people looking at a career in the property sector.

One of the biggest issues in cultivating diversity within our sector is in showing the future generation of workers that they will feel welcome and valued no matter their gender, race, background, or sexuality. We must be pragmatic that our sector is assumed to be quite stereotypical in the candidates who succeed, so it’s about making sure that diversity at board level is visible and workplace cultures are inclusive and nurturing.

We also need to make early efforts in our community outreach to young people in schools and youth clubs, to let them know they could have a career in property – especially by showcasing women in senior roles. I certainly wouldn’t have thought I’d be in this role when I was at school, or that it would even be an option. I often hear many other women in the sector say they “fell into it”, rather than it was an aspiration from a young age, which is something we need to change moving forwards in the industry.

We need to ensure that we stamp out toxicity which is still prevalent in many organisations, and we hope that our approach and programmes to enhance equity in the workplace encourage more women to begin careers in property, as well as more businesses to follow suit. Diversity is important for success in our industry as we pave the way for our future leaders, and future projects.

To find out more about Clockwise, visit

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