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“Go after whatever it is you are striving for and don't let obstacles deter you”

Sheryl Owen, Senior ESG Manager at Mott MacDonald.

Born and raised in Brooklyn New York, Sheryl has seen first-hand some of the most beautiful skyscrapers in the world, but also the consequences of living in energy inefficient buildings which were not built with sustainability in mind and the resulting energy and fuel poverty that arises when people are faced with the costs and burdens of homes that cannot perform in the face of ever-changing seasonal demands. 

The story of Sheryl's journey to a thriving and passionate career in sustainability starts when Sheryl was young, much before the recent "buzz" and drive towards more sustainable real estate. As a high schooler, Sheryl took classes in environmental science which led her to pursue civil engineering and taught her the practicality of constructing buildings. Sheryl was able to incorporate this education in her early career working at various architectural and construction firms with a sustainability focus which has led her to where she is today.

Sheryl says "In New York, it's evident how housing differs dependent on social economic status." She wants everyone to experience a sustainable environment even if they can't afford it. Sustainability should be ingrained in every single building. She has seen her parents adopt creative methods  to keep the house warm during the colder months, such as turning on the oven or wrapping the windows in plastic - last resorts which not only lead to sky rocketing bills, but are also harmful to people's health. Sheryl has witnessed communities having to decide whether they sacrifice comfort to save money or vice versa. She feels strongly that this should not be a choice people have to make and all buildings should be built sustainably. She wants to be a part of the solution. This in Sheryl's words is the "Greater sense of purpose which drives her day to day".

Sheryl's job allows her to be at the heart of those decisions. In her current work life, Sheryl helps clients identify how to strategise their corporate and ESG goals and apply it to their assets across their portfolio. She advises clients across all stages of the property life cycle from development to the final fit out and occupation.

When not doing her main job, Sheryl is busy speaking and advocating on international stages about social issues that impact real estate; mentoring and acting as a resource for other women, particularly women of colour who wish to enter the sustainability space, and is always keen to provide advice about what skills are needed to be successful in this sector.

In dealing with the realities of moving halfway across the globe, Sheryl has struggled with finding other individuals that she can relate to in the sector and in her personal life, as well as those who look like her. A hurdle she has faced herself is the lack of diversity and representation of black women in senior roles in the industry, and Sheryl has particularly found it challenging to find mentors whose footsteps she can emulate. It is for this reason that finding communities such as BWRE and Black Women in Asset management has been a pivotal part of her journey to settling into life in the UK as well as understanding the London property market.

Given her own experiences, Sheryl's advice to other black women is to be open and receptive to the different ways in which support can present itself. Sometimes the way in which someone is offering support may be the only way they know how even if it is not exactly what you are looking for. There are nuggets of gold to be taken from all experiences.

Sheryl encourages black women to  go after whatever it is you are striving for, it may not be an easy journey but focus on your dreams and aspirations and don't let obstacles deter you! In the same token, be careful also not to let obstacles define you or be the reason you keep pushing for something which may no longer align. Always stay true to yourself.

The Phenomenal Women campaign is sponsored by the RICS



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