Though real estate is traditionally regarded as a highly male-dominated and rather conservative sector, this image is changing rapidly. Newsec is an excellent example of this trend, with women making up nearly 60 per cent of the staff, even in managerial grades. How did this come about? Let's give the women an opportunity to explain!
Lea Poijärvi, Anna-Maija Ruohonen, Maarit Tsupari and Anna-Liisa Sarasoja
Newsec is a value-driven business with an attitude to human resources reflected in the company's core value of Passion for colleagues and clients. Equality is so integral to the Newsec corporate culture that it has become a dependable part of the background.
"Equality is so firmly built into the business culture at Newsec that nobody ever feels any need to discuss it. I don't find that being male or female is of any special importance here. Women have come to comprise a high proportion of our staff with no specific appointments policy in this regard," explains Deputy Managing Director Anna-Liisa Sarasoja.
The property sector has undergone major changes, even during the fifteen-year career of Anna-Liisa Sarasoja. After completing a doctorate in real estate management in 2008, she became the first female professor of real estate management at the age of just 28 years, and was slightly surprised to find the sector so male-dominated at that time.
"Women were few and far between at property sector conferences back then, with no more than a few dozen attending alongside many hundreds of their male colleagues. As a young woman, I was naturally left wondering what kind of world I had entered, but a substantial shift has occurred in the gender balance at industry conferences over the last five years," Anna-Liisa notes.
Business Park team leader Anna-Maija Ruohonen joined Newsec a year ago after spending over a decade working in construction. She also finds that gender is not a factor in career advancement or other aspects of her new occupation. A very wide range of responsible and worthwhile positions have become available over the years, and treatment has been highly fair and equitable throughout her working career.
"Though the transition from working in a highly male-dominated workplace to managing an entirely female team felt like a major shift initially, I now get to enjoy the full power of a team driven by feminine energy," Anna-Maija enthuses.
Anna-Maija Ruohonen increasingly emphasises the diversity of the sector, both for women and for men.
"We have been delighted to see the emergence of a wide range of duties in the property sector, with a more heterogeneous educational background bringing more interest and new perspectives to the industry," Anna-Maija notes.
Women over 50 years of age account for more than one in ten Newsec staff members, meaning that the experience of women is valued. With long careers already served in the property sector, Lea Poijärvi and Maarit Tsupari represent the experienced cohort of women at Newsec. Their experience of realising equal opportunities at the company, and in the property sector more generally, is nevertheless no different from the reports of their younger colleagues.
"There were rather few women working in property when I started out as a self-employed operator, and men with a real estate management background dominated the sector. The arrival of women in the industry may have aroused more curiosity and surprise than outright discrimination, with some degree of outsiderness as a woman remaining an ongoing feature, as invitations to the traditional evening business sauna are less likely," Lea says.
As Director of Leasing and Brokerage at Newsec, Lea nevertheless notes that conditions are increasingly equitable and that women working in the property sector have also begun networking.
"We have events for women and plenty of networking opportunities nowadays. It's essential for women to stand up for one another and form networks – even outside the property sector," Lea Poijärvi says.
With nearly three decades of experience in property, Newsec's lease administration team leader Maarit Tsupari has also seen how the duties of women have evolved in the sector.
"Where women used mainly to be housing or property secretaries, we nowadays find them serving in such capacities as real estate managers and directors."
Both Lea Poijärvi and Maarit Tsupari stress the emergence of softer values in the business culture at Newsec. Equal opportunities also mean harmonising work and family life, with flexibility shown by both the employer and staff members.
"I think the business culture at Newsec has been highly equitable from the very outset, with the same opportunities available to all. We pay more attention nowadays to job satisfaction, reconciling work and family life, and other softer values," Lea Poijärvi explains.
Promotion opportunities are also equitable for both women and men, with appointments determined more in accordance with the personality and wishes of the individual.
"In lease administration, for example, all of the supervisors are women who have been promoted in-house, meaning that it has also been possible to create a career path within female-dominated units," Maarit Tsupari notes.
With women making up more than half of its staff, Newsec is an unusual property sector enterprise, but obviously it takes more than women alone to establish an equitable business culture.
"I think we have achieved the desirable condition of no longer needing to discuss equal opportunity, because this has become such a natural part of business culture and industry practice. My own status privileges me to work among fine male colleagues, who provide career advancement opportunities and treat others equitably," Anna-Liisa Sarasoja explains.
Newsec would like to wish everyone a good International Women's Day!