Rachel Coulthard

Rachel Coulthard

Senior associate at Lawrence Stephens

The London firm Lawrence Stephens has established an initiative to encourage stronger female representation in the field of real estate finance. Senior associate Rachel Coulthard explains its scope and ambitions.

Despite their considerable contributions to the sector, both as leaders and trailblazers, women remain underrepresented in the real estate finance sector by virtually every metric. As a means to push for gender equality in the field, we at Lawrence Stephens launched our Women in Real Estate Finance (WREF) initiative last year.

WREF brings together bright female leaders in real estate finance and celebrates their impact, and also provides them with the tools needed to flourish in the industry.

The industry has made steps towards greater inclusivity in recent years, but it is undeniable that real estate finance is struggling to keep up with the rapid advancements towards gender equality elsewhere. WREF aims to spur the industry on to hasten the progress already achieved.

Goals and aspirations

First and foremost, we began this initiative to shed light on the incredible work being done by women in the real estate finance sector, with the goal of simultaneously acknowledging their achievements and inspiring others.

By creating a platform for like-minded women to share their experiences and learn from each other, we also aspire to help others overcome the obstacles too often faced by women in the space and create opportunities for growth within the field. We are committed to challenging the male-dominated sector through a varied, proactive, and effective approach.

Panel discussions

One key way in which WREF empowers women to succeed is through a planned series of panel discussions designed both to give women a platform and highlight the value of having women in leadership positions. Towards the end of May, we are hosting a panel titled, “Building Resilience on Both Sides: Are Allyship and Mentoring the Key to Levelling the Playing Field?”

With something to be gained by people of all genders within the industry, events such as this facilitate discussion on a range of critical issues. It is vital to demonstrating that women leaders add much-needed dynamism and versatility to their organisations.

Our intention is for these panels to increase the visibility of successful women in the industry and provide much-needed representation of strong female role models to the next generation of professionals.

Systemic hurdles

However, it is not only in accessing the top positions that women encounter difficulties in real estate finance. The WREF initiative acknowledges that many of the challenges faced by women are rooted in the educational and cultural biases prevalent in society.

For meaningful progress to be realised, these systemic hurdles must be addressed. Our approach is therefore holistic and recognises the complex, intersecting issues that stand in the way of progress for women.

Demystifying the sector

While most people will experience a level of imposter syndrome in their lives, it is especially prevalent among young women. One way in which we aim to bolster the real estate finance sector is by developing a new mentoring programme that demystifies the process of entering the sector, and encourages young women to apply for the roles they want.

As part of the scheme, and as a further WREF event, Lawrence Stephens will host a walk-in clinic that will provide guidance and advice to young people between the ages of 18-27 who fear facing barriers of entry due to their gender.

In tandem with WREF, and to foster a cohesive approach not limited to the real estate finance sector, we have also established the Lawrence Stephens Gender Equality Network to advocate for broader women’s empowerment.

The disparities we are highlighting in real estate finance are by no means exclusive to the sector, and our mission is to bring together women leaders from a range of industries to tackle these issues.

With our WREF initiative, our goal is to pave a wide path that enables brilliant women to pursue careers in real estate finance and we are incredibly excited to move it forward. Please do get in touch with me, Rachel Coulthard, if you have any questions about WREF or are interested in being involved!


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