The new hot property: gender equality

As the first female Chief Executive of the REIQ, Antonia Mercorella has been responsible for leading the charge in achieving gender equality, both within the organisation and the broader Queensland real estate profession. The lawyer-turned-CEO strongly believes gender equality starts at the top, which explains her vision to cultivate a peak body that represents inclusivity, modernity and progressiveness for its members and wider profession. Despite its 102 year legacy, the REIQ has fundamentally embraced change that fosters a culture of equality.

“It’s really important that the organisation continues to modernise and adapt to current circumstances,” explains Antonia Mercorella. “What we know today is that females play an incredibly important role in real estate. Further, the outcomes are always better when there’s diversity in a workplace. For the REIQ to be sustainable and continue to serve its members for another 100 plus years, it’s incredibly important we have a board and staff that are diverse, inclusive and respectful of all genders.”

Now six years in the role, Mercorella has led some revolutionary modifications to the organisation – most notably, constitutional changes in 2018 which ensure two member-director positions on the board are reserved for females plus an additional seat for someone aged under 35-years. Such a change brought about some difference of opinion; some argued that quotas and mandates have no place in the boardroom. That said, the changes were adopted and positively resonated with both REIQ members and the broader real estate community.

“As an organisation, we wanted to send an important message to our membership – that we want more women at the boardroom table where the decisions are made,” explains Mercorella. “Since the introduction of constitutional reforms, we’ve witnessed an unprecedented level of women nominating for a position on our board. And that was our intention – to create momentum and send a message to women that they matter to us; and, we want them in leadership positions.

“Women can get to where they need to get to on merit, but I think we need to take positive action, change our systems, policies and methodologies to do all that we can to let women know that they are welcome.”

Queensland’s real estate ecosystem has transformed tremendously since the organisation’s inception in 1918. Where females once dominated administrative roles, the profession is now seeing more women thriving in areas including sales, property management, business development and, more importantly, as business owners. That age-old stigma of real estate being a ‘boys’ club’ is within earshot of its death rattle.

“You only need to look across our great industry to see the number of females really excelling in real estate,” adds Mercorella. In fact, some of our best performers, both across residential sales and property management, are female. And with the ever-increasing number of females entering real estate is evidence we, as a peak body, are doing a good job of encouraging them to join the profession.”

Despite the progress being made both within the REIQ and wider profession, there’s always room for further improvements. On a grassroots level, Mercorella points to business owners quashing negative stereotypes and sexism in order for their staff to thrive. “Offering flexibility to staff in your business is a great first step to take, and not just for females,” she further explains. “It’s about offering flexibility for males too so we can break stereotypes about who’s the breadwinner and who’s the primary caregiver to children for example. Keeping an eye out for any forms of ‘casual’ sexisms that can emerge in a real estate office and calling it out if it happens is really important. Everyone has a role to play in this if we’re aiming to achieve total gender equality in real estate.”