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International Women's Day 2023: What inspires retail landlord leaders?

Tom Shearsmith
08 March 2023

Despite being an industry aimed largely at women, fashion is still led largely by men. According to a recent study by Price Waterhouse Coopers, some 75% of apparel shopworkers are women, but just 12.5% of Fortune 1,000 apparel and apparel retail businesses are led by women.

In celebration of International Women's Day 2023, spoke to fashion and retail leaders to hear about how they make their mark in the industry, how they support women-led businesses, and what improvements can still be made for women.

Contributing to today's conversation, GPE's Sarah Goldman, Senior Portfolio Manager and Rebecca Bradley, Director of Customer Experience & Relationships.

How do you celebrate IWD?

Sarah: I spoke at length this weekend with my twins, a 7-year-old boy and girl. It’s important to me that I bring them up, as the next generation, with a totally different mindset. I love this year's theme about equity, not equality. If the next generation takes this as the baseline, the world will be a far better place.

Rebecca: Here at GPE we are running a series of events and activations designed to acknowledge and highlight the importance of IWD and this year’s theme of #EmbraceEquity. Our Women’s Employee Impact Group committee have worked hard to bring together a host of activities that take place throughout the week including supporting the Marylebone Project by collecting women’s clothes and hosting an afternoon tea with cakes supplied by Munch in Marylebone (part of the Marylebone Project).

For me personally, each IWD I take the time during the day to reach out to my female friends and family to remind them how much they all mean to me, and to let them know that they inspire me to do more and be better just by how they go about living their lives.

How do you see that women's voices are uplifted in your business throughout the year?

Sarah: I have only ever worked in the property industry, so perhaps I have become a little immune to the environment! That said, I do think there have been massive positive changes over the last 20 years, but we still need to do more. I used to be the only female in a room; now I might have 1 or 2 others in there with me. GPE has made huge strides forward in the last year - our Executive Committee has committed to ensuring more than 60% of senior recruits are female and 40% of all senior leadership roles are occupied by females by 2025. This is a huge step in the right direction!

Rebecca: Our Women’s Employee Impact Group, which started last year, is already helping to raise our voices in a stronger, more organised way which is really gratifying to see. We also have a HR Director who is excellent in this area, and a male Executive Sponsor for the WEIG who is able to amplify our voices. He is showing how having senior male allies is really important and can make such a difference to the women in our company and our industry.

How can more women be encouraged to purse entrepreneurship or senior leadership roles in their career?

Sarah: I think it is the best possible sector to forge a career in. There is so much opportunity and diversity within the sector and certain roles which offer great flexibility to balance the demands of a career and home life. Don’t overcompensate for being a female and don’t be afraid to ask for what you want.

If men want a pay rise, they will ask for it (deserved or not!), whereas women tend to shy away from difficult conversations, and as a result, often don’t get the promotion or the pay rise. I am lucky that I have generally worked in great companies that supported, encouraged and had forward-thinking leadership, but sadly I have friends who haven’t been so fortunate.

Rebecca: I think the key to this starts at a very early age. I recently watched an interesting Ted talk by Reshma Saujani (Founder of Girls Who Code) which considered the topic of girls being raised to be ‘perfect’ and boys being raised to be ‘brave’. The advice there was that there is no difference in ability between girls and boys so we need to do more to empower girls to be braver about their skills and ambition. It’s hard for women to suddenly become ‘braver’ but some ways I try to do this myself is to endeavour to surround myself with positive people that give me confidence, ignore detractors and to regularly choose to do things that push me out of my comfort zone.

One of the key barriers is the lack of senior female role models in the industry. Sometimes it’s hard for young women to envisage themselves in particular roles if there aren’t already women visibly in them. One solution here is to ensure companies that have women in property roles nurture them and help them progress into those senior roles that are more traditionally occupied by men.

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