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Top influential women developers share their industry experience

While the property industry has historically been dominated by men, an increasing number of women are making their mark in property development.

By Dorine Reinstein

, |

Top influential women developers share their industry experience

While the property industry has historically been dominated by men, an increasing number of women are making their mark in property development.

By Dorine Reinstein

, |

3 min read

The number of women in senior executive positions worldwide remains consistently low, with only 4.9% of Fortune 500 CEOs being women. The property development industry is no exception. A 2016 report by Ernst and Young showed that men outnumbered women in senior leadership positions in the property sector three to one. However, the tide is turning. Rosella Dingle, CEO of Rainbow Junction, and Olivia Jacobs, Development Manager of Enigma Property, share their experiences in the field of property development.

The odd woman out

Dingle found her passion for property development ‘by accident’. Having studied business law, she entered the property industry by advising her family on the legalities of a strategic development project. From there, she gradually grew into property development.

Although there were very few female developers, Dingle didn’t mind standing out. ‘I always was a bit unusual – the odd woman out, so to speak. In my day, it was also unusual for women to study business law,’ she laughs. ‘I’m used to being a woman in a male-dominated environment, and I enjoy working with my male counterparts.’

Jacobs also never envisaged a career in property development. She first worked in accounting, then interior design and eventually became a quantity surveyor. From there, she received a job offer in development, and hasn’t looked back since. ‘I love being part of a concept from beginning to end,’ she says.

The biggest challenge for Jacobs as a woman in property development is networking. ‘It’s hard to network and become part of the ‘boys’ club’. As a working mom, I don’t have time to learn golf and spend days on the golf course networking.’

Women offer a more holistic approach to property development

Women bring a lot of assets to the development world. ‘Having a woman present on a construction site can be a good thing. With only men, things tend to get a bit heated,’ laughs Jacobs. ‘If there’s a woman present, the atmosphere becomes more respectful. My male colleagues even say that men listen more to women.’

‘As mothers, women tend to have a more nurturing side to them,’ adds Dingle. ‘We are more concerned for the wellbeing of our professional team as well as that of the end user in the development process. We bring a more holistic approach to development.

‘You spread care; it’s not just about bottom line for women. You can’t do wrong by doing right, and your integrity and principles are very important,’ she says.

Tough women in a tough environment

Development is seen as a very tough industry. Dingle explains that people often underestimate how tough women really are. ‘We can be a lot tougher than men, especially when we feel we are fighting for something worthwhile.’

Authority is not something either Dingle or Jacobs is struggling with in the workplace environment. ‘We’re in a tough environment. That goes with the job. I wouldn’t be where I was if I wasn’t able to impose my authority,’ says Dingle.

‘You have to make really tough decisions and stand by these decisions. You need to be prepared to stand your ground and drive processes forward. Development is not for the faint-hearted.’

Processes and red tape in this industry require a lot of patience and resilience. ‘You see developers falling by the wayside or giving up, and you need to tough it out. You need a lot of grit, and women are good at that,’ adds Dingle.


Passion for development: not negotiable

For women wanting to enter the property development industry, Dingle says it’s important to have passion. ‘You have to believe in property and have a passion for it. I wouldn’t enter into this industry lightly because it is such a tough field. Your passion for development and property will get you through the dark moments.’

If it’s just about the bottom line for you, Dingle says, it would be a very dry road to walk.

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