Trailblazing in the Property Industry

This week Sara Cameron, Rebecca Best and Danielle Lester come to talk to me about role models, confidence, imposter syndrome and more… it’s a conversation you definitely don’t want to miss!

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If you would prefer to read the transcript of the Audio, it’s here:

Natasha Collins:            Hello, and welcome to the NC podcast. My name’s Natasha Collins, and I am the founder of NC Real Estate, which includes its member’s club for Landlords and property investors, to come and build profitable property portfolios that completely align with their goals. I have such a special podcast this week. I’m so excited. I am joined by three lovely ladies. Sara, Rebecca, and Danielle. Hi!

Sara Cameron:              Hello.

Rebecca Best:               Hello.

Natasha Collins:            We’re gonna go through one by one and I’ll get them to introduce you. You will have already met Sara and Danielle from previous podcasts, but I wanted them to come back and Rebecca, it’s so lovely to have you as well. So, Sara, I’ll start with you.

Sara Cameron:              Mm-hmm (affirmative). Great. Well, I’m Sara Cameron. I’m a commercial property surveyor. I work in the public sector. I’ve been a surveyor for 20 years, and in the last 18 months to two years I’ve been involved with RICS government council, which has been a brilliant experience. One of the most collaborative working experiences of my life. Yeah, I’m… Cut my arm off, I say RICS right through.

Natasha Collins:            Great. Rebecca?

Rebecca Best:               Hi! Yes, I’m Rebecca. I’m a senior partner at Rider Levett Bucknell, based in London. I’m a fellow of RICS, and I’m a quantity surveyor by background. I lead, currently, in the data center sector, and I, like Sara, am a elected member of RICS governing council. I’ve been involved in RICS for some time now. Previously with the UK and Ireland world regional board, and similar to Sara really, I love working with the organization. I work with ROV and I similarly love working with the RICS to give thought leadership on the key issues that we’re faced with in the world and in particular, within the built and natural environment, such as climate change, diversity and inclusion, the war for talent, technology generally, and the future of our industry. Diversity and inclusion is something that’s particularly something that I do champion. I would like to see more and more diversity within the industry that we all work within. So, yeah. That’s me, really.

Natasha Collins:            Fantastic. Finally, Danielle?

Danielle Lester:            Hi. I’m Danielle. I was on the podcast a few weeks ago. I’m assistant professor at New York University, at the Schack Institute of Real Estate, where I currently teach real estate development and construction management. I too am a quantity surveyor by trade. I’ve obviously started life in the UK, moved over to Australia, where I worked on some mega projects mainly transport infrastructure projects. Then sort of… Well, I guess for the last 11 years, I’ve been between here, Australia, and the UK working on my Master’s and my PhD. So now my main focus is human behavior and decision making, and how that impacts delivery of projects, how it impacts the built environment, how it impacts all manner of aspects involving us and how we interact with our environment.

Natasha Collins:            Fantastic. Thank you all for coming on the podcast. I really appreciate it. So the purpose of getting all of these lovely ladies together. Amazingly, we’re all in America. Rebecca’s dialing in from New Orleans, right?

Rebecca Best:               That’s correct, yes.

Natasha Collins:            So you’ve got four English ladies in America. The reason I wanted to get together today was because we’re always talking to one another and we’re sharing our experiences from in the industry. That spans across continents, because we’re doing it via Twitter, emails, LinkedIn, Instagram, and we’ve slowly been building a community of like-minded surveyors who… We just chat about what’s going on in the industry. I wanted to let you into a little bit of that, because we’re all getting together today. There’s some key themes that I wanted to talk about, because a lot of the time when people get in contact with me, it’s because either they’re lacking in confidence- they don’t know which direction they want to go in, both in the industry- and when I’m talking about the industry I’m talking about the property industry as a whole. So that’s you property investors, you landlords, you property professionals, anywhere that you are within the industry. I get it. It can be a real confusing place. So I wanted to get your thoughts and your ideas about some real good advice that you can give my listeners based upon a couple of topics that we are always discussing.

Natasha Collins:            So the first thing I want to talk about is role models. How have you found role models in the industry, and how has that changed as you’ve gone through your career? Because there’s always this need to… I find it as well, I like to look at what other people are doing, and I’m inspired by that because that makes me better. So tell me what your experience of that is.

Sara Cameron:              Shall I start? Well, early on in my career, I didn’t have any role models. I worked in very male-dominated offices. No female professionals. I think the penny drop with me, was I had to be my own role model. So I started mentoring junior surveyors to me, and living the values that I felt passionate about. And then slowly, the industry started to change, and I think seeing the visibility of Louise Brooke-Smith and then Amanda Clack and then the rise of social media and the accessibility of some of these women. And the fact that they’re putting themselves out there. They’re also working hard and achieving brilliant things. I think the best advice I can give is you might be nervous or afraid to do it, but do it anyway. Get out there and network and speak to people. Find out who you can talk to.

Natasha Collins:            Yeah.

Sara Cameron:              Absolutely, I think that’s certainly my biggest lesson. I’m a big introvert. I don’t put myself out there. I kept on saying over the last four days at governing council that I’m happy to take part in all of those discussions and give my input and move the conversation on, but I didn’t want to stand up and present back to the team.

Natasha Collins:            Oh, okay.

Sara Cameron:              Because it’s just not me. I’m very much a team player and a collaborator. There are people out there that I’m in awe of, and Rebecca’s one of them. Because–

Rebecca Best:               Aw.

Sara Cameron:              I’ll start the love-in here, because absolutely. My time on governing council… I went straight to governing council. I didn’t do the hard work of working through the matrix board and UK and Ireland board and onto governing council. I went straight for governing council. So I think I got the timing right, but there are some inspiration women on governing council. There are some inspirational men on governing council that are tremendous allies. They’re all out there, but you’ve just got to go and ask.

Natasha Collins:            Mm-hmm (affirmative). Can we back up slightly? Can you explain governing council to anybody that’s listening, because not everybody’s RICS, so…

Sara Cameron:              Right, well. The professional body has a royal charter and the board of governors for the institution is governing council. And that’s directed down to management boards and regulatory boards. So basically, we meet twice a year to set strategy for the coming years, and to do oversight and some assurance work. So it’s a great team of people, either appointed through world regional boards or elected like Rebecca and I. Yeah. It’s great, because it’s talking about the big topics and how we as a professional body can engage with our members to achieve some solutions to those big topics. So like Rebecca mentioned, climate change is one of them. Our response to [prop tech? 00:09:11] is another. The fact that we need a diverse and agile and socially mobile work force is another. It’s really about getting from “what are these issues?” to then “why do we need to worry about them?” to the “how do we deal with them? How do we move with the times?”

Natasha Collins:            So essentially, you’re starting at the top and you’re thinking about what we need to put in place to be able to do that?

Sara Cameron:              Yes. Future-proofing the profession. Yeah.

Natasha Collins:            Fantastic, fantastic. So Rebecca, how about you? What’s your thoughts around role models? How can we find them in the industry?

Rebecca Best:               Yeah, I think probably just building on what Sara’s just said there, actually. I think that it’s not about just- you mentioned the word allies, and that’s a really key word actually, because there are so many inspirational females in the industry, but there are also so many male inspirational role models that are allies. Sean Thompkins is one of those. He’s the CEO of RICS and himself and Gillian Charlesworth, again of RICS soon to be BRE. Gillian is a fantastic role model. She’s about to commence her term as CEO of BRE, and between Sean and Gillian, they’ve really pressed forward with the diversity and inclusion agenda. Really sort of trailblazed that within our industry and been involved in the women of the future awards with the women of the future in Asia awards as well. I think it is about, as Sara said, just having the confidence maybe touch base with people. I think social media is a great forum because actually now, you can follow anybody on Twitter and reach out to them, and I think those true allies within the industry would be more than happy for people out there to reach out to them, whether it’s for advice or mentoring. I think mentoring is a key role here for those people in the industry that have been through experiences. And Sara mentioned there in terms of confidence around public speaking.

Rebecca Best:               I think you’re great at public speaking, Sara, by the way, and the delivery you’ve just given there is fantastic.

Sara Cameron:              Well, thank you. It’s fun- Sorry to interrupt you. It’s funny. I was just regaling my appalling [inaudible 00:11:58] for the governing council changes that I was asked to do. I don’t feel very confident about it, but there we go. Impostor syndrome striking again.

Natasha Collins:            Oh, yes. I think we need to come back to impostor syndrome. We definitely nee dto have a conversation about that as well. So Danielle, how about you? Role models. What’s it for you?

Danielle Lester:            So, I guess my experience with role models has been an interesting one, because when I started in my career, I started working for subs. I was the only woman in my company- for a variety of companies- until I got to Australia. So I was… It wasn’t until I got to Australia that I actually stopped working onsite and was actually working with other women. But up until that point, I remember reading a very, very small advert in RICS Magazine very early on in my career, looking for construction ambassadors. And I thought, “Well I love what I do so much that I’m going to put my name forward.” I was still in my first year of my career, I think. I can’t remember- There was an education board in the UK that sort of developed this idea for this construction ambassadors. In fact, one of the guys that’s on the governing council, Jon Lever, he actually did the training for it to get us all prepared to go out and be ambassadors.

Danielle Lester:            But I was actually involved in other events that involved going out and speaking to not just young women, but just students of all ages. Like I said in the previous podcast, children from the ages of eight up to sort of sixth form and heading off to university. In various different forums of activities and what have you. And it was by going out there and me just wanting to tell everybody how amazing the construction industry was that I was meeting other people that were starting to become role models for me. So I was looking at other people that were also putting themselves out there like I was, and going “Wow, what they’re doing is amazing. I want to be like that.” You know? So I wasn’t actively going out looking for role models, but it wasn’t til– And I’m a very reflective person. So it wasn’t until I was taking a step back and thinking, “Well, what did I learn from that person today? What did I learn from that person at the same event that I can use moving forward?” I think, as with many people I know in the industry, a lot of my early actual day jobs I found myself going from one job to the next, just going, “Well, what I’ve learned from that job is I’m not to do it moving forward.”

Natasha Collins:            Yeah.

Danielle Lester:            So it wasn’t until I sort of went over to Australia and realized how significant the skills were that I’d learned in the UK were, just because they weren’t used in Australia at the time, as to how important it was to have a role model to be that person waving that QS flag over there saying, “This is what we do. You might see other people doing it under the label of QS, but that’s not… What they’re doing might not necessarily be the right way of doing it.” Getting out there with the RICS and really sort of promoting quantity surveying and the institution as a way of putting all those standards out there. Again, that was how I was aligning myself with the people who have the similar values. And again, it was just a case of me looking around and going, “Wow, what they do is amazing. I want to do that.” You know?’

Danielle Lester:            And then, obviously, I got more involved with the education side of things and again with me seeing professors and other academics that were making me think, “Well, that’s what I want to do.” It wasn’t necessarily a case of going out and looking for role models. It was more a case of just taking that step back and looking around you and seeing the skill sets in the people that you’re with all the time.

Natasha Collins:            Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Danielle Lester:            And seeing what value you can take from that and what you can learn about yourself and the industry from looking at others.

Natasha Collins:            See this is an interesting conversation. You know, we’re saying actually, to find our role models, we’ve almost had to put ourselves out there and go, “Okay, I’m here. I need to find somebody.” And I very much did that as well. I was constantly looking for people to follow and I’d put myself in a situation and then look around and be like, “Oh, these people are onboard with what I’m doing too. I want to see what they’re doing so that I’m not so on my own.” But going back to what you said Sara, that comes with impostor syndrome.

Sara Cameron:              Yep.

Natasha Collins:            And I get impostor syndrome probably on a daily basis. I have to give myself a good talking-to and say, “Natasha, you’re running a business. How would a business owner respond to this? Not how is your fear responding to this?” So can we talk about how we deal with our own impostor syndrome and what it’s like for you?

Sara Cameron:              Well, for me, I keep Carrie Fisher’s words in my head. It’s okay to be afraid, but do it anyway. Just get up and do it anyway. Yeah, I’m plagued by my own self-doubt with everything that I do. I never feel good enough, and I work myself really hard. I was saying to Danielle on the way here that my boss pulled me aside once and told me that bronze or silver service was good enough. It’s not for me. Because I want to get it right the first time. I don’t want to have to go back and redo the work. I don’t want to fail. I don’t think that’s something that really I’ve experienced with the people around me. It’s really come from inside me. It’s not a learned behavior, let’s put it that way. There’s something inside me that is… That’s my default setting. But it’s hard. It’s exhausting. It really is, and you just think- with the Instagram lifestyle that we’ve got these days with everyone taking the perfect-angled selfie and someone on the rooftop [crosstalk 00:18:41] I mean seriously, that was like a professional photo shoot that they were doing to just get the perfect Instagram photo.

Sara Cameron:              And you just think- We’re so- there’s this culture of being really concerned with what other people think rather than just going out and doing what’s right and what’s true to your values. But yeah, it’s hard.

Natasha Collins:            It is hard.

Sara Cameron:              I don’t have the answers. I just keep going, keep swimming.

Natasha Collins:            Rebecca? How about you? Do you get impostor syndrome, and how do you deal with it?

Rebecca Best:               I think yeah. I think me personally, probably I’ve lived a life being my own worst enemy. Just probably having high expectations of myself and wanting everything to be perfect and me to be perfect and working really hard, etc. but I suppose over the last few years mainly through coaching actually, I have- And you mentioned it yourself Sara, about values. I’ve done a lot of work about discovery regarding my own core values and really living in line with those and checking in with myself and the decisions that I’m making and what I’m doing, and making sure that they’re actually true to me. Bringing myself to work as well. I feel comfortable now to bring myself to work, to celebrate that, and to encourage others to bring themselves to work and celebrate that. But also, just being kind to myself as well. Making sure that I put great inroads in this year in particular actually, regarding my own work-life balance. I went to a retreat in India at the start of this year just to have some time away. It was an Ayurvedic retreat, and it was just what I needed just to sort of reset. As they say, just be kind to myself and come back to London reinvigorated and really growing and developing and recognizing we’re all just human beings. None of us are perfect. It’s a very hard life to try and achieve perfection, and it’s okay not to be perfect–

Sara Cameron:              Absolutely.

Rebecca Best:               To make mistakes and learn from it. Help each other and celebrate mistakes. And of course, if we’re consistently making mistakes then that’s not good in the jobs that we do. Of course, we don’t want to be issuing work to clients with mistakes, but recognizing that actually from time to time, we don’t always get things right and we just need to learn from that and guide and help each other out, really.

Natasha Collins:            I love the idea of bringing yourself to work. I really like that you said that. What does that mean to you? Does that mean that you’re giving yourself a pep talk beforehand, or you’re just okay to show up as you are that day?

Rebecca Best:               I think it’s more about showing up as me. I suppose this whole- as they say, historically, I have been renowned and have this perception that I’m a perfectionist, but actually, it’s just that I do set high standards. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. Actually, I’m being kinder to myself and bringing myself to work means that I’m not putting a façade on. I can come to the office maybe dressed a bit more casually than what I may have done historically. You know, I’m still really good at my job and can fulfill what I need to. It’s not about what I’m wearing. It’s about what I’m doing, what I’m achieving, and also being kind. I think that’s something that’s really undervalued. I think just being kind in society in general, helping other people, and in the workplace as well. Just being there for people. Sometimes that’s just about being somebody for people to listen to. Quite often, people come to me with various things that are going on in their personal lives, and I think they’re sometimes quite surprised that we spend that time to discuss that with them.

Rebecca Best:               I think that’s a really important part for all of us in being role models to others. Being true to ourselves and letting people know that actually, you can be true to yourself. No matter what your religion, your background, your age, your gender, your sex, any of these things. Just come to work and be yourself. It’s the right person or the best person for the role; it’s not about what gender you are or what age you are, or any of those things. It’s celebrating diversity and everything that brings with it, and ensuring that we’ve got all of these different perspectives and that’s really important as well. The fact that my perspective is likely to be different to Sara’s or Danielle’s just because we’ve lived different lives and we’ve experienced different things. It’s not that either is right or wrong, it’s about bringing all of that together. I think that’s the key about diversity–bringing all those perspectives together.

Sara Cameron:              Yeah, I think it’s bringing your whole self to work, isn’t it? That’s the spirit of everything that Rebecca’s just said. So that you’re not leaving part of you at the front door, because that’s not efficient, is it? If you’re spending half of your energy hiding part of yourself or pretending not to feel what’s around you, it’s… You’re not going to be bringing your best self to work. So I agree absolutely with everything that Rebecca’s just said. It’s amazing. Well put.

Rebecca Best:               Well, thank you! That’s something I often– It’s interesting, you say about standing up. I’m not afraid to stand up and speak, but sometimes I feel I’m not eloquent in my delivery, so…

Natasha Collins:            Oh, no. You definitely are.

Sara Cameron:              Definitely are.

Rebecca Best:               There’s my gremlin now.

Natasha Collins:            Danielle, how about you? How do you feel about your impostor syndrome? Do you get it?

Danielle Lester:            Yeah. So I pretty much for the last two years have expected somebody was going to tap me on the shoulder and go, “Look, we’ve read your thesis again and we’ve actually decided to take your PhD away from you.” Because doing that unique piece of research, it’s your… it’s my baby. I’ve sort of tried to express this to the people at work. They keep saying, “oh, you’re still talking about your PhD.” I’m like, “yes, I am.” It was three years in the creation and I’ve essentially gone out there and put a thesis out there saying that our industry is full of delusion and deception and this is what I think we should do about it.

Danielle Lester:            I was so sort of engrossed in it whilst I was doing it that to me, it just became second nature to just say “delusion and deception” all the time. And it wasn’t until last year when I was at the RICS summit in New York that I was asked to speak on a panel. I was really quite nervous, because I was on with the event sponsor and various others talking about artificial intelligence and various other changes and disruptions. But as I started to feel more comfortable and get into it, I started batting around the words “delusion and deception” like everybody else had been talking about them as much for the last three years as I had. The faces on the people in the room were just like, “Whoa.”

Danielle Lester:            I was very conscious of it at the time thinking, “Rein it in, Dan. Rein it in. Not everybody’s as used to these words as you are, and they’re quite strong terms to use.” But it wasn’t until after the event that I actually had quite a few members come to me and say, “God, that was refreshing to hear somebody speak in such an honest and open way about industry.” Especially, one of the things that I don’t think about is the fact that I am still a young female British professor that’s sitting in front of this room in New York going, “Oh, yeah. We’re all deluded and we’re all bound for deception.” It was that that started the whole, “You know what? I am an expert.” That’s a really weird word. As much as the word academic makes me kind of go, “Ew,” so does “expert.” But this unique piece of research that I’ve done is now leading me into a field that I am the expert in, and the more I talk about it and the more feedback that I get from people just saying, “Yeah, you’re right. You’re right actually. I’ve never thought about it like that.” That, to me, is the validation of yeah, I’m going down the right road with this and I need to be more comfortable with just saying it as it is.

Danielle Lester:            I’ve always been someone that says it as it is, and that’s often come a cropper for me, but in this case with my research, I think I’m starting to slowly chip away at people listening. A lot of the conversation from the world built environment forum came back to human behavior, and I was like, “Yeah, you want to talk about human behavior? Let’s talk about human behavior. I can give you lots of things we can talk about.”

Danielle Lester:            I still have those moments where even when I’m in a classroom, a lot of… I’ve had some big challenges here, and like I said previously, some of the young male students have really been quite aggressive in their attacks on their disagreeing with my grade that I’ve given them or disagreed with the feedback I’ve given them. But on the same hand, I’ve had the younger female students come to me and say, “I sought you out on the list because I saw there was a female professor and you’re a strong female role model for the industry and I really wanted to come to your class. And I’ve learned so much from you.” And that, I have to consciously remember that when I’m dealing with the students who are like, “No, I’ve got superior knowledge in real estate, so I want you to change my mark.” And I’m like, “No.”

Natasha Collins:            Don’t you wish you could just bottle the goodness up?

Danielle Lester:            Yes. Yeah, yeah.

Natasha Collins:            You know, honestly, what I’ve had to do to remind myself that things are okay. I have a scrapbook where I stick all the nice things that people say about me, and when I’m feeling down or like someone’s attacked me for something, I go and read it. Because as much as I always come across like “yeah, you know what? Whatever. I don’t care what people think.” And I try and have that outside. I do try and have that tough shell, because I feel like if there was some sort of thing where I was feeling like I don’t know what to say or I don’t know what to do here, I’m very honest. If I don’t know something, I will tell you that I don’t know something. But sometimes, I do. For every ten good comments that I get, the one comment will wind me up. Or I’ll feel sad, or I’ll feel not good enough, or I’ll feel like I’ve lost it. I have to do that. I mean, how do you keep–

Danielle Lester:            I think one of the interesting things that’s happened for me recently is I’ve literally been in this bubble for the last six years, doing the Master’s and the PhD. I’ve recently sort of come out of that, and I literally feel like I’ve surfaced in a pool. As my head’s bobbing around, I’m looking around and thinking, “There really isn’t many other women in this area of academia in real estate.” I don’t know whether it comes from being the second eldest of seven, but I feel like I’m now needed. I’ve got a responsibility to be out there as this female academic in the built environment. SO I don’t know whether that gives me that little bit of confidence.

Danielle Lester:            Like I said, as the second eldest of seven, I’ve always been like, “Who needs me? Who needs me? What can I do for you?” So the fact that I feel like I’m needed makes me feel a lot more confident in my role.

Natasha Collins:            Interesting.

Sara Cameron:              Yeah. I was just going to say interesting because it’s as though you have to give yourself permission to do it. Almost create a duty to do it that forces your hand, because that’s exactly it. I didn’t think that I would have a hope in hell of getting elected onto governing council, a little girl from Norfolk, no network, I mean honestly. When it happened, I then had this great sense of duty that well now I have to be visible. I use social media for that, and the surveyorhood blog has created a platform for not only me to share the things that are important to me, but what’s important to the family of surveyors that we’ve got. It’s more about promoting individual diversity. It’s about creating that culture within the whole profession for me that’s important. That’s what I spend most of my time doing. The feedback that we get from it is just tremendous, that it’s needed and that it’s making a difference. I could burst with pride with what I hear about it. If I’m seen as a role model because I’m living my values, then that is absolutely my purpose in life.

Natasha Collins:            Sara, do you know what though, your blog is phenomenal. Anybody who hasn’t read the surveyorhood blog, I will put the link below. I’ve always found you as someone that I could just reach out to, and you’d be there. A wide, open-arms, “come on in, come and share” and you do that so well. So the fact that you’re saying you find it nerve-wracking to public speak, I’m just like, “Wow!” I felt so confident to reach out to you for anything. You were almost that rock in the profession.

Sara Cameron:              Well, I feel like I’m a bit of an auntie to everyone, really. It’s funny, because we were talking about– we started out as the surveying sisterhood, and it was Twitter-led and we were just like-minded professionals that came together on International Women’s Day. As we got to know each other, our values were much bigger than that. That’s why we rebranded to being that kind of tribe of surveyors. Surveyorhood felt very natural to us, because we want it to be absolutely inclusive to everyone.

Natasha Collins:            Yep.

Sara Cameron:              Not one of us is right, and we’ve all got something to learn from everyone else, and at the end of the day we’re all human. Some of the trolls that you get on social media obviously aren’t human, but we’re there open doors, open arms because everybody matters. Everyone’s story matters and it’s been a powerful experience. Joe and Natasha that run that with me are so integral to it because we bounce off each other. I can’t- forget which it was, Joe or Natasha, coined the phrase that we “found our tribe.” And that’s it. We just want to spread that so that everyone can benefit from that.

Natasha Collins:            Mm-hmm (affirmative). Should we go on to a topic of conversation that maybe is a little bit taboo? I certainly find that when I talk about it on Instagram, I talk about it on my blog, I talk about it on my podcast: inclusivity within the real estate industry. There is no disputing that there’s only- what is it?- 14% of women in the industry, compared to 86% of men?

Sara Cameron:              Yeah, Matt Howell said yesterday it slipped up to- notched up to 15% with about something like 23% coming in as students and trainees.

Natasha Collins:            Fantastic.

Sara Cameron:              Which is really positive. It’s in single figures for black and ethnic minorities.

Natasha Collins:            Wow.

Sara Cameron:              That’s appalling. And then the figure for fellows is a tiny percentage of fellows are women.

Natasha Collins:            Wow. And I see that within my Facebook group as well, where I think it’s 34% women to that larger percent of men. And every time I start talking about this disparity, I know that I do lose followers. People do switch off from me, but I think it’s really important that we talk about it because I’m always asked to go and represent women or talk about how more females can get into the industry, or how we can be more diverse. I think to start off with, just standing up and talking and being a woman in the industry. It’s fantastic. But what can we do to support other people getting into the industry, I guess from all shapes and sizes, backgrounds, whoever you are. How can we stop just making this image of a surveyor or that property professional, that white man in his mid-50s who sits behind a desk just fee-earning. That’s kind of the property professional, I think. How do we change that?

Rebecca Best:               I think it is sort of connecting in that this isn’t just about gender. It’s more widely diversity. You mentioned ethnic minorities and BAME and even when we look at the statistics in terms of those with disabilities, I think actually it is about role models. I think there are some really simple things that all of us can do. Simple things such as just making sure that we’re aware of it. So much awareness, I’d like to think most people in the industry are aware of it, but I think there’s an awareness piece. I think there’s a piece around unconscious bias in firms and shoring. All of their employees undertake training in that regard, because we all have an unconscious bias. Of course we do. We’ve all had a different upbringing and different experiences, but it’s having an awareness around the issues and wherever possible, forging links and collaborations. I think to try and do this alone, it’s going to be huge for businesses in particular that perhaps aren’t really encouraging a more diverse workforce. I think it is about those role models. People see other people and aspire to be like them.

Rebecca Best:               I had mentioned about Gillian earlier. Her role in the BRE from a gender perspective- that’s huge. That’s massive. Amanda Clack, she’s made huge inroads within our industry, but she’s done that. They’ve both done that with the male allies and working together to recognize that there is an issue. It’s about working together to solve this. It is about training and awareness and development, collaborations, doing everything we possibly can to make sure- For example, on interview panels within firms, that it’s diverse and representative, really. We want to be representative of the communities that we work within. In some cases, those communities might represent a certain demographic. I think it’s just making sure that we’re not turning anybody out off of our industry and those less experienced and those that are not yet in the industry can see the role models and the champions. Because they’re what we need to prolong for the future of our industry. It’s connecting in with schools and colleges and parents and teachers. Real understanding about the great career that people can have within our industry. It doesn’t matter where you’re from, what you look like, your age, any of those things. It’s irrelevant. It’s what you can bring to the industry. I think it really is- gender’s one part of this, but actually it’s a wider true diversity piece around ensuring that everyone’s supported.

Rebecca Best:               We talked about bringing yourself to work. Knowing that it is okay if you have dyslexia or if you have a learning difficulty, or if you need support from another disability or for religious beliefs. If you need time out of the day to go and pray at certain times, on certain days, et cetera. Fasting. It’s about ensuring that everybody feels that– actually, returning to work mothers and fathers, parents– feeling that they’re supported with flexible working, and everybody is supported with remote working. They have that connectivity and the accessibility. These are actually relatively easy things that I think that everybody can do, but I think it’s just having a general awareness in the first place that they are issues. Just because I might feel like I have the voice doesn’t mean that other people in the industry feel the same. Some people– you’ve alluded to it, Sara. Some people feel like they don’t have so much of a significant voice, and that’s why allies I think are really important, so we can champion and help each other to ensure that people do feel supported.

Sara Cameron:              Absolutely.

Natasha Collins:            So that leads me on to kind of the final point then. How can we find the confidence to continue doing what we’re doing and continue working in our environments, but also helping other people. How do you find your confidence? As kind of a final tip to close off this podcast.

Danielle Lester:            I draw from others, as I’ve said from the start. One thing that I didn’t say and haven’t actually spoken to Rebecca and Sara about is the fact that when they recently– No, actually, I think it was last year when you were elected onto the council, Sara, and Rebecca was reelected. I was about a month into my new role as a professor at NYU, and I’d got home from work and looked through social media and seen the results of that council and seen that it was a female majority. Within the space of 48 hours, I decided I was going to put my name forward for the academic and education chair, because I was just so thrilled with what I could see, this result that had come from this election. I somehow managed to put an application together within 48 hours, including getting five signatures from around the globe. I put that application in and it was the only seat that required a recount because we were so close, me and Paul, who actually was elected. But I was only 50 or so votes behind him and that was huge validation for me. Huge validation. Because I was the only female academic on that group and the other academics were all very much more established academics. So yeah, that– I’ve never actually told Rebecca and Sara the impact that their– Because I think that Rebecca was actually the highest vote. She received the most votes, didn’t she?

Natasha Collins:            Inspirational.

Danielle Lester:            Yeah. And obviously, I watched Sara’s whole campaign through social media. You weren’t to know that I was just sitting in Brooklyn at the time, just watching all this thing play out and that’s what inspired me to put my name forward, so thank you both.

Natasha Collins:            Well thank you. That’s amazing to hear. What wonderful words. Thank you. Rebecca, what gives you confidence, and what tip could you give?

Rebecca Best:               Yeah, do you know, it’s actually very similar to what you’ve just said there. I think recognition from others, even just to hear that I’m almost emotional [crosstalk 00:45:01] what you’ve just said to recognize me and something I can do can have an impact on yourself and others. I think that’s what gives me confidence. Every time others come to me and say that I’ve inspired them to come into the industry. There’s been in particular younger females that perhaps I have hopefully inspired to come into our industry. After the event, they’ve come to speak to me and let me know that. I think that just gives me confidence. And gaining that recognition from others that I’m inspired by and I find inspirational when they– like you’ve just done there, say to me that I could perhaps be a role model and inspiration. I think that builds my confidence. I would say again, just have confidence. My advice would be just have confidence within yourself and your abilities, and don’t underestimate how many people will look up to you and will recognize what you do, perhaps when you don’t even know it yourself. So yeah, that’s what I would say.

Natasha Collins:            Sara, to wrap up?

Sara Cameron:              Yeah, I’d like to treat confidence and the way I choose happiness. I make a conscious decision to… Well, not quite fake it until I make it, but I certainly make a choice that it’s about the attitude that I have towards what I’m going to do. I may be quaking in my boots and fighting my impostor syndrome all the time, but it’s about that kind of resilient decision to say, “It doesn’t matter what happens, how I feel about it. I’m committed, and I’m going to go for it and do my best.” So, yeah, it’s a conscious decision.

Natasha Collins:            Amazing. I think that’s a good place to wrap up. One key takeaway that I’m going to say is remember to tell other people that you’re looking up to them, you’re inspired by them, just say thank you and recognizing them for what they do. That builds confidence and that allows us to do so much more, and I’m going to take that away. Thank you, Rebecca, Danielle, Sara, for coming and joining me today. I hope you’ve all enjoyed this really positive, uplifting conversation. If you have any comments, make sure that you post them below. Remember to subscribe to this podcast. It comes out every Tuesday morning at 7:00 A.M. UK time. Again, if you want to find out more, head on over to, or head on over to my Facebook group, which is Property Investment Mastery, or if you want to follow me on Twitter, it’s @natashaccollins, and you can follow all of these other ladies, too. I’m going to put their Twitter handles below, too. So thank you for joining us today. I really appreciate it. We all really appreciate it, and I cannot wait to catch up with you again soon.