When it comes to diversity and inclusion in the built environment, we often hear about the challenges faced by diverse groups. But the story of Black Women in Real Estate (BWRE) is that of the incredible power of female connection and empowerment.
BWRE is an organisation that focuses on connecting and empowering women within the property sector. It was founded by Hanna Afolabi (Founder and Managing Director of Mood and Space), in 2019 to address the issue of the distinct lack of black women in her daily work interactions. For most black women working in the sector, it is not rare to be the only black woman in meetings, in a team, in a room or in a senior position. It can be difficult to manage how isolating and discouraging this may be; it is even harder when we do not have anyone to lean on.
BWRE provides a much-needed network for black women in the property industry with the aim to create a community for, and by, black women to empower and work towards the growth and progression of black women. The organisation also hosts regular personal and professional development workshops, which are vital for career progression. In an industry that is predominately white and male-dominated, there is a distinct notion that to be successful, you must be a white man – steering many away from pursuing careers in the built environment. BWRE has sought to dispel that narrative by highlighting the success stories of black women as talented and knowledgeable thought leaders and is actively pushing for increased representation.
"Black women face unique challenges when it comes to working in real estate and having a space that creates the opportunity for community, empowerment and growth enables them to thrive. This benefits our members as it creates avenues for success however companies also benefit because it supports the retention of diverse talent. When we make success attainable, we can change the landscape of professional life for black women." Hanna Afolabi, Founder of BWRE
In July 2022, BWRE ran a week-long campaign with Madison Berkley titled #IAMWOMEN, five members shared their experiences and journeys into the industry. The stories shared, were powerful and inspiring and provided a road map for other people looking towards the sector as a career option. By spotlighting the successes of black women in our industry, we encourage the retention of existing talent and attract new diverse entrants.
"We can't be what we cannot see" The Lionesses' win is a prime example of how a victory can change the course of an entire industry. Their championship has sparked increased interest in women's football, which is exciting for the future of the sport. When people relate to success, it gives them hope that they can do the same. BWRE will continue to spotlight diverse stories as a targeted way to increase recognition of the contribution that black women make to the sector.
1.2 million people are employed in the UK real estate sector. Only 500 (1.6% England and Ireland figures) are black or from an ethnic minority group. This number is exceptionally low and gets lower for black women. The scale of the issue is large and because Real Estate is relationship focused, exacerbated. As a white male dominated profession, the sector will continue to attract, and retain similar people when they only use their immediate networks. To solve the diversity issue, we need to create inclusive workplaces, champion diversity and diverse stories and support and lean on organisations such as BWRE to attract and retain diverse talent.
Industry leaders are responsible and uniquely positioned to improve diversity. This means not only advocating for and welcoming people from diverse backgrounds but working to understand and address the underlying reasons for underrepresentation by connecting with groups outside of their immediate circle. BWRE's Bold Space dinners connect industry leaders with inspiring black female leaders over dinner. This gives access to people outside of their usual circles and humanises the diversity and inclusion agenda through personal conversation. If you are interested in being a sponsor, please get in touch.
If you would like to get involved in BWRE as a member or sponsor, check out their website or email them at firstname.lastname@example.org
The BWRE is a non-profit organisation that relies on donations and sponsorships to continue its work.
Hanna Afolabi is the Founder of BWRE, the Founder and Managing Director of Mood and Space and an advocate for diversity and inclusion in the sector. Follow mood and Space on Instagram and twitter @moodandspace or connect directly with her via LinkedIn