For those of you who don’t follow me on social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) – shameless social plug so early on, this is a record), you might not have noticed that I won an award on Saturday. In the grand scheme of life, given Mr Trump’s antics and the Weinstein scandal, this is not huge news. But in our household it certainly is and I will continue to unashamedly shout about it for a little while longer. Please bear with me.
So. To summarise…
I (and Property 165) was crowned New Property Investor of the Year at Saturday’s Property Investor Awards, 2017. And I am damn excited. Really excited. Obviously playing it cool as if it’s no big deal, but actually simultaneously dancing internally excited. I feel this photo conveys my excitement quite precisely.
It was a fabulous formal black tie evening in Bloomsbury and the event was long anticipated by all the finalists, who were announced a month ago.
There were seven categories; Property Investor of the Year, Property Development of the Year, New Property Investor of the Year, Property Deal of the Year, Property Trader of the Year, Serviced Accommodation of the Year and HMO Property Deal of the Year and the winners (in that order), were Paul Nicholson of the Luxor Group, Investar Property Group, Nellie McQuinn of Property 165 (yessss), Jon Stein, Cormac Henderson, Investar Property Group and River Birtwell. This doesn’t acknowledge the other finalists who were, in their own right, an incredible collection of innovative and creative investors (please do check them out at www.propertyinvestorsawards.co.uk/2017-finalists/). I felt extremely privileged to even be a finalist, so to win was out of this world.
Several years ago, the Property Investors Awards started its life as a celebratory dinner followed by an end of year festive party. It was based on a simple idea, which was to bring forward-thinking, successful, and ambitious property investors together to share and celebrate their achievements of the year and make valuable new contacts. In 2014, the organisers decided that they wanted to add more meaning to the event that had organically grown significantly year on year. That was when the concept of the Property Investors Awards was born, which seemed like a natural progression. The event has grown from what previously was a celebration with just 90 attendees, to a prestigious awards ceremony with over 250 attendees. To this day, it still encapsulates the ethos of celebrating excellence in property investing.
Now, as mentioned, this is a black tie do. So obviously my morning started with a trip to Toni and Guy to get my do done, a whiz around Boots to get some last minute accessories; nails, new make-up brushes, some fabulous red lipstick got thrown into the mix. It was a full day affair and I was accompanied by my fabulous husband, whose patience never ceases to amaze me, especially when in the handbag department of House of Fraser. We then hightailed it home (not too fast, my hair was done after all), I squeezed into some under garments that promised to rival Dolly Parton’s waistline and I grew 4 inches as I donned my killer red heels. Because, when a woman goes to a black tie do, this is pretty standard. AND when I won my award (obviously fingers crossed at this stage), I wanted to look fabulous and I DID NOT want to be on stage with the other female winners, feeling subpar.
Looking and feeling fabulous, it was time for the evening to begin.
After some general schmoozing and champagne (the Royal National Hotel was serving French champagne in wine glasses and this might have been the only downside of the entire evening), it was the big reveal. The room held its breath and one by one the winners were revealed. Lo and behold (after some confusion with the names of the finalists in my particular category), my name was announced as the winner of New Property Investor of the Year. What excitement!!! I was invited up onto the stage and presented with a shiny gold award (Property 165 company name printed incorrectly, though I have since been reassured that it will be fixed) and a dozen long stem roses (thanks to Roses Only). The flowers were, I must admit, a bit of a shock - none of the previous award winners were presented with them, however, what a lovely surprise, I said my thankyous to the room (video in full below) and took my seat again.
After the full ceremony, we were all invited back up on stage. Inside, my internal monologue was thanking my lucky stars I had primped and primed to the nth degree. I would be able to hold my own next to the other fabulous female winners…
On that note, I’m just going to leave this picture with you.
It wasn’t until I was up on stage, basking in this glorious moment, that I realised I was the only female up there. What. My Dolly Parton waistline was for nothing?! Where were my fabulous female co-stars in their killer heels and head to toe sequins?! Not one woman (apart from myself) was lucky enough to be holding an award. Suddenly the roses made sense. This is why no one else had a bunch – I was the only lady.
So, upon reflection, I have some feelings about this (I’m sure you’re expecting as much). My major emotions are surprise, followed by pride and gratitude that I was up there representing the female investors of the UK and then finally, frustration. Why was I the only woman up on that stage? Looking around that ballroom, there was an even mix of women and men. Granted, my table had four women and five men, however, give or take, the divide of sexes was fairly even. So why weren’t any of these women up on stage? Now, it must be noted that there was one other female who was a finalist (Mithila Rollings-Kamara, nominated in partnership with her husband in the New Investor of the Year category), however none of the other categories had females at the helm. Should the Rollings-Kamara’s have won, this would have dethroned me and there still would have only been one female up on stage. A quick google search reveals that at last year’s awards there wasn’t even ONE female winner (so at least we’re moving in the right direction).
This got me thinking. I am a big fan of ‘may the best (wo)man win.’ I believe that awards, grants, funding, etc regardless of what industry you’re in, should be awarded on the merit of the project and the individual attached. I don’t believe race, colour, gender, sexual preference or religious beliefs should play a part at all. In fact, this sometimes gets me in trouble as a film producer, as I get frustrated when projects are made simply because they tick a diversity box, not because the project itself is any good. I digress, however my point is, if these men were genuinely the best in their category, then they absolutely deserved to win. I was curious to find out at what stage the women started to drop out of the race and why. After a few enquiries, I was informed by several different sources there weren’t many female applicants to begin with. They weren’t eliminated; they weren’t in the race at all.
To explain my disbelief a little more, let me explain the process of application and the rigorous hoops you need to jump through to get nominated for the Property Investors Awards. I’m not underestimating the quality of the winners (I am one, I’m hugely excited and honoured and the competition was fierce), I’m simply talking about the nomination stage. Let’s just walk it through….
First, visit www.propertyinvestorsawards.com.
Then, enter your name and email address.
Then…… that’s it.
That’s what you need to do to become nominated. You can do it yourself. It will take less than 30 seconds (in fact if it’s taking you that long there’s something wrong, get autofill). If you can’t do that… well, if you can’t do that, I’m sure you wouldn’t have got this far into my diatribe, so it’s a moot point.
So, I ask one more time, where are all the women? Why haven’t more women been nominated? COME ON LADIES, WHY AREN’T YOU SHOUTING ABOUT YOUR ACHIEVEMENTS?!
Now, don’t get me wrong, there is a HUGE application form and process that happens after this initial nomination stage. I had to include details of my deals, the land registry title numbers of all the properties purchased, I went into painful detail about my mistakes, how I financed the flips, what I would do differently etc etc etc. Shakespeare had plays shorter than my final form. But the initial nomination process was not arduous. 37 characters... it didn't challenge me.
I am very fortunate and do not often come across the gender gap in my workplace. I have run my own production company from the age of 19, my business partner is male, but we are 50/50 and we run the company as equals, pay included. If anything, as in with most of the relationships in my life (business, personal et al), I tend to take the helm quite regularly. I therefore live in blissful ignorance – I am very aware of the gender gap via media, though it’s not something I have a lot of experience with. In general, I tend to make people listen to me if I believe I have a point worth making. Being a female never factors into my consciousness... I am a business owner and entrepreneur and THAT is what is important. However, standing on stage in a sea of dicky bows made me rethink this. A short game of musical chairs with the other winners made me really rethink this (it quickly turned into a drunken rugby scrum, I was out of there before you could say 9 to 5).
I am a member of Women in Film and Television UK and I have recently started attending the Women in Property and Business monthly networking events wherever possible. I’ve always thought of these events as ‘boutique’ – it’s such a great vibe being in a room full of women, but are they actually boutique? Or are us females hiding away, too shy to stand in front of a room full of men and shout about our accomplishments? Do women out there feel inferior to men? How do we even begin to address this problem?
Speaking to Cyril Thomas (founder of the awards), I expressed my amazement on the lack of female investors present amongst the finalists and winners. He asked me what I would do about it. My honest answer was that I’m not sure, but I want to do something. He reminded me that I have a platform now.
So I’m not sure what exactly I can do about ensuring women are represented in the property industry. Until this weekend I hadn’t realised it was an issue. But now, Cyril is right, I have a platform. And I intend to shout about it as much as I possibly can. After all, next year I intend to be up on that stage again, and I want some fierce competition for not only the awards, but my Dolly Parton waistline as well.
Come on women, we’ve got this. And I've got your back.
My acceptance speech!