How to create positive change in the property sector

LGBT History Month, Building with LGBT flag

Article provided by Kelly Canterford – Director at Tigrou Consulting and co-chair of Freehold

Having spent more than 20 years in property, asset management, sales and coaching, I’ve witnessed first-hand just how much the world of business has changed when it comes to inclusivity – especially for people who are part of the LGBTQ+ community.

This is especially true of the property sector. But I’m also profoundly aware that there is still room for improvement and that I am in a uniquely privileged position to help foster that growth.

Back when I started out in the property sector, it was still very much the old boys’ club for straight men from a middle-class background that many imagine it still to be. There were, of course, many people that didn’t fit that mould. But they were all but invisible for a long time.

Gradually, however, the weight of efforts by a number of organisations (including Freehold, which recently celebrated its tenth anniversary), has helped ensure that the property sector of 2023 is a very different one to that of 2003.

My own passion for diversity and inclusivity was sparked in 2014, when I helped launch Building Pride at JLL. The proactive, strategic management implemented led to JLL ranking number one in its sector on the Stonewall Workplace Equality Index 2017. My experiences at JLL gave me practical insight into the challenges companies face as well as the tools to help them make positive changes that stick.

Perhaps more importantly, however, it taught me that we all bear collective responsibility when it comes to ensuring inclusivity in the sectors we work in.

If we really want something to change in the workplace, we have to do everything we can to drive that change. If we all waited for someone else to make the changes we want to see, we wouldn’t have come very far at all in the last 20 years.

Another important lesson is that pushing for change can’t be all serious all the time. It’s what makes some of the events organised by Freehold – including theatre nights – so important. If we were all fighting for change all the time, we’d very quickly burn out. But these events aren’t just a chance to kick back and relax, they’re also important for building networks and friendships that make us feel more confident in the positions we’ve carved out for ourselves.

And that’s critical. Because the more diverse and inclusive the property sector is, the stronger it is. Every year, millions upon millions of people use the retail, office, and hospitality locations that the sector develops and manages. Those people all have individual hopes, wants, and needs. The sector cannot possibly hope to address those if a single perspective dominates. So, when it comes to creating positive change in the sector, we don’t just have a responsibility to ourselves and our colleagues but the millions of people we serve on a daily basis.

Kelly CanterfordAbout the author

Kelly’s career spanned media, sales and hospitality before she joined the property industry at King Sturge, qualifying as a chartered surveyor a few years later as the firm merged with JLL. After meeting some JLL colleagues at a Freehold event, Kelly and those colleagues went on to found JLL’s UK LGBTQ+ network, Building Pride. Since then and now through her business, Tigrou Consulting, Kelly delivers equality, diversity and inclusion advice as well as training to companies across the world. 

She is also the Programme Manager for Changing the Face of Property, a collaboration between 12 of the UK’s largest real estate consultancies, which aims to accelerate diversity and inclusion across the built environment. She also serves as Chair of ULI’s UK’s REDI committee and a member of the ULI’s Executive Committee.

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