20 years of Women in Property

2020 marked the 20th anniversary of the inception of Women in Property (WIP), an initiative originally conceived over a phone call between Wendy Clarke and Leonie Freeman, with supporters Stephanie Harris and Andrea Hamilton quickly joining the fold.

In those days, women in the property industry were few and far between, and while there seemed to be plenty of opportunities for men to connect and network (where women were often unconsciously excluded), there were no dedicated catch ups for women. While it was Leonie who suggested a group be started, it was Wendy who took the ball and ran with it, with their first event hosting 45 women (despite only 15 email invites being sent!).

The purpose of WIP was to build connections, with Wendy saying, “if we knew each other in our own context it would encourage us to go to the main industry events”. This ethos helped increase female participation at Property Council events, with a record 11% of attendees at the 2005 National Conference being female (a vast improvement on the years when that number was closer to zero). Over years the group grew and developed, eventually becoming too large for the small band of volunteers to manage themselves, which is where Property Council New Zealand stepped in as administrator in January 2009.

The main focus in the early days was gatherings such as site tours, lunches, dinners and wine tastings with a line-up of stellar female speakers. Fortunately, as the gender balance at events has slowly begun to improve and the makeup of the property sector itself has shifted, the need for WIP to act as a ‘taster’ for main industry events has lessened and the group has transformed from a dedicated membership with its own fee to being included in the Property Council membership. This change meant every employee of a Property Council member company can join the WIP events, with all genders welcome to attend.

Nowadays, Property Council attracts a far more diverse and inclusive audience, with Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) becoming one of the organisation’s key priorities and the WIP group falling under the governance of the D&I Committee.

While the original ‘women in property’ are very proud of what the group became, they also say they look forward to a time when it is not needed anymore – a time which is hopefully not too far away.


Gender diversity in governance

With Property Council’s Annual General Meetings held throughout the country late last year, we now have confirmed diversity statistics, with the average percentage of females in Property Council’s regional governance risen from 26% in 2019 to 28% in 2020.

In 2019, the organisation made a push for increased diversity with the adoption of the  40:40:20 Pledge at all Property Council events. This pledge aims to encourage a range of speakers who are 40% male, 40% female, and 20% either across local and national events, both as attendees and speakers. This pledge was further extended to include Property Council’s governing committees and we have been thrilled to see the progress made in just two short years.

The Auckland Regional Committee made huge strides, with 50% female representation (versus 31% female representation in 2019). This was largely thanks to the commitment of many departing Executive members who wished to make space on the 15-strong Committee for a more diverse group of members.

It must also be noted that due to the changes to Property Council’s Constitution, these committees were reduced from previously up to 22 members to a maximum of 15.

The regional breakdown is as follows:

Regional Committee Males Females Total in Committee % Female
Auckland 8 8 16 50%
Waikato 11 3 14 21%
Bay of Plenty 12 2 14 14%
Wellington 11 3 14 21%
South Island 12 4 16 25%
Otago 10 5 15 33%
TOTAL/AVERAGE 64 25 89 28%

We thank those members who have made the conscious decision to encourage their female staff to put their names forward, you are helping create an industry where everyone belongs.



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