International Women’s Day!

Madison Lincoln is proud to celebrate women’s achievements.  From challenge comes change, so let’s all choose to challenge and help create an inclusive world.

For International Women’s Day, Tom McNally (Managing Director and Co-Founder of Madison Lincoln) asked Clare Coe and Nina Zeilerbauer (Co-Founders of Madison Berkeley and Board Directors of Madison Lincoln) if they would be so kind to be interviewed for this important day. The transcript is below:

Tom: Hi Clare and Nina, how are you both?

Nina: Great, thank you.

Tom: Thank you both for your time today and to let me interview you for IWD, it must feel strange being on the other side of the table and being interviewed rather than being the interviewer.

Clare: It does feel a bit unusual.

Tom: With IWD coming up soon, I thought it would be great to speak to you both about your careers, your inspirations, your challenges and your experience of being a leader in real estate.

So talk me through your career journey to now from school onwards…..

Clare: I had an interest in property from an early age as my father worked in the property industry. After A levels, I went to study Land Management at University of Reading and began the journey into the industry at an early age. I graduated in 2009 which was in the middle of the GFC and there were hardly any graduate opportunities. I was fortunate enough to join Strutt & Parker on the graduate scheme close to home, after carrying out a summer internship with them the year before.  I really enjoyed the transactional and agency side of real estate, and I relocated to London and I ended up speaking to a real estate recruitment company who subsequently offered to hire me as a recruiter. And as they say the rest is history.

Nina: I studied History and Politics at Oxford Brookes and once I left University I followed the bright lights of London – having grown up in rural Scotland I always dreamt of moving South and experiencing life in one of the world’s greatest cities! I am a people person so recruitment seemed an obvious move and I joined the UK’s most successful IT Recruitment firm.

After 5 years with a company who provided a great foundation and training in the industry, I wanted to marry this experience with something I was passionate about. I have always loved architecture and buildings, and how the built world relates to the communities and people who live in them – Real Estate recruitment made that match. I worked closely with Clare for a number of years and we increasingly came to recognise how closely our future aspirations were aligned, as well as our approach to work and life, which led to the founding of Madison Berkeley in 2017.

Tom: As we know the real estate industry is dominated by white males and typically from the same background. Do you ever feel that you have been discriminated against or held back in your career?

Clare: As a woman, being surrounded by males your whole career does give you confidence issues, just because you don’t shout as loud, it doesn’t mean your opinion isn’t valid. As you advance in your career, this is something you learn to deal with but it is a constant challenge. I understand that lots of women in real estate agree with me and the majority of women struggle to sell themselves compared to their male counterparts.

Nina: I’m very fortunate and have never felt personally discriminated against in the companies I’ve worked for, however as we deal with recruitment for a huge variety of other businesses time and time again we come up against the kind of barriers that other women experience. The gender pay gap remains a huge issue – less so when women move firms and are able to compete on the open market for a fair salary, but women often lag behind men when it comes to achieving equitable pay rises and promotion within one firm. We regularly speak to women with the same number of years’ experience, and sometimes the same job titles as male counter parts, but who are on significantly lower salaries and who receive smaller bonuses. In my early career clients would often ask a female candidates marital status before deciding on whether to interview them, which fortunately very rarely occurs now but is not unheard of.

Tom: What do you see as the most significant barrier to female leadership?

Nina: In the recent past requests for flexible working hours, and regular days working from home has always been seen as a specific female issue, usually relating to childcare and I am sure has acted as a significant barrier to promotion and woman rising to leadership positions. This has either been through having less ‘facetime’ in the office with senior decision makers, and a historic perception that when people are working from home they are less effective. One of the positives of the lockdowns and enforced WFH is that this has been turned on its head, with some workforces being even more effective from home, and no matter what someone’s gender is, an employers approach to flexible working policies in the future is now a key issue for all employees.

Tom: How important is your role (Or what do you think your role is) in guiding organisations looking to change their culture and be more inclusive and diverse?

Clare: We lead by example and ensure that we practice what we preach. Diversity is currently at the top of the agenda for our clients and this is something we strive to provide in all of our shortlists.

Tom: We are finally seeing some female leaders take senior positions in the real estate industry like Stephanie Hyde (JLL), Rita-Rose Gagné (Hammerson) and Helen Gordon (Grainger).

But what can businesses do to ensure they are cultivating the next generation of female leaders?

Nina: To have a future generation of female leaders businesses need a diverse talent pool coming up through the ranks, and too many industries attract far more male graduates than females. Companies need to engage with the future employment market by working with Schools and Universities to highlight the career possibilities for women that exist within their firms, and showcase inspirational role models to help drive female graduates to their industry sectors.

It’s also important to really engage with your recruitment partners when trying to attract new talent, and work closely with them to ensure your business and brand is being marketed in the right way to females at all stages in the process. A badly worded interview question can do a lot of damage to the way your business is perceived!

Tom: What are the advantages for organisations to have women in leadership and decision making roles?

Nina: If you don’t mind I’m going to spin that question on its head – if we asked anyone what the disadvantages were to having women in leadership and decision making roles I can’t imagine a single answer that wasn’t a generalisation, and the same is true of the above – any answer I gave would be a generalisation or stereotypical!  Gender should be irrelevant to someone’s suitability to do a role, and in any given situation it could be a female or male who is best suited to lead a team or organisation. The issue goes back to talent pool, and also women having the confidence to put themselves forward for these roles – if leaders are picked within a proper meritocracy, and no weighting was given to gender when promotions were made then businesses and all employees would feel the benefits.

Tom: Is there a female leader that you admire?  Why?

Clare: Karren Brady. I have followed her career for some time and listened to her speak at an recruitment event a few years ago. I think she is so inspiring. She became the youngest ever Managing Director of a PLC in the UK and became the first woman to hold such a position at the top of English football. She is an inspiration to all women, not just those women working in a male dominated industry like us.  She is committed to helping other women follow her path and instrumental in persuading businesses to see the benefits of putting more women on their boards. A quote of hers that has always stuck with me: “You can’t determine where you start in life, but you can determine where you end up.”

Nina: Kate Adie for me. I grew up hugely admiring her, she was always so courageous and calm and had a career she was absolutely passionate about, even when it led her into incredibly dangerous situations. She entered a very male dominated industry already when going into journalism, and to then become a celebrated war journalist really broke the mould! She led the way for others to follow her, and I’m sure inspired the likes of Emily Mathias to follow her and have such successful careers.

Tom: In your view, what are some of the characteristics of a good leader?

The ability to motivate and inspire those they lead, having clear goals and in a business environment a set of brand values that they can articulate, and who demonstrates integrity to those values.

Tom: If you could go back in time – what advice would you give your younger self at the start of your career?

Clare: Do something you are genuinely passionate about and interested in! Schools and Universities are very good at putting the blinkers up so you follow a traditional route. It’s ok to break out of any moulds set for you. You will be successful doing something you enjoy and genuinely believe in!

Tom: What is the biggest business risk you’ve ever taken?

Nina: Setting up Madison Berkeley for sure. Clare and I were in very secure, well paid positions at the time and it was a big leap to go it alone! We were settled and relatively happy but both had an underlying belief that we could create a business based on our own values that we could be really proud of, and which could provide something new to our client base. We could see that there was a gap in the market for a recruitment firm who genuinely act as a partner to their clients, and who offer a very tailored and knowledgeable service. Three years later and we are both sure it’s the best decision we ever made!

Tom: What big business win are you most proud of?

Nina: As opposed to one single thing I am most proud of our partnerships with clients, who we are growing and evolving with. Looking back to my reasons for going into the property sector I can now look around London and know that our business has helped source Real Estate Professionals for schemes like Kings Cross and Battersea Power Station, which have changed the face of the city. We cherish and care about our relationships, and aspire to continually help our clients find solutions for difficult and challenging hires.

Tom: What has you the most excited about the future?

Clare: We have been established for just over 3 years now and it is a pivotal time in our growth. It’s such an exciting time for Madison Berkeley and we have lots of things to be positive about.

We are passionate about further building upon our long-term relationships with our clients and candidates, and helping them navigate the rapidly evolving world of work. The pandemic has hugely accelerated trends such as a more flexible approach to work, and this will have big repercussions – with some businesses adapting faster than others. We feel positive changes will be a more diverse workforce and promotion prosects finally becoming more equal.

Most of our work is through referrals, which is something we are very proud of and we are really enthused about our network continuing to grow. We will also be expanding our own team this year, bringing on additional like-minded consultants with real estate backgrounds to join the Madison Berkeley team. We can’t wait to get back into the West End in an office environment later this year and of course, we have the exciting partnership with Madison Lincoln as a new service to offer our clients.

Want to know more about Clare and Nina’s business, here is the link –

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