Courageous Conversations: How Sadhana Smiles broke through real estate’s glass ceiling and why she’s encouraging the industry to change the workplace conversation

When Sadhana Smiles became the CEO of a major multi-franchise real estate brand in 2011, it was a milestone moment for women in the industry. Here, she looks at what’s changed since and the ways she believes the industry still needs to evolve to embrace greater diversity and equality.

As one of the industry’s first female CEOs, Sadhana Smiles vividly recalls a time when the real estate industry had a glass ceiling.

Now the head of Real Estate Industry Partners and the Director of Harcourt’s Move, she notes a lot’s changed since, but there’s still ground to be made. She says this was particularly evident at a recent real estate conference where talk turned to the negative experiences many women have encountered in their real estate careers.

In this Courageous Conversation with Leanne Pilkington, Sadhana shares her personal journey as a leader, including how the industry can pave the way for greater diversity and more positive experiences for women in real estate in the future.

She stresses there’s never been a better time to address the issue and create safe and inviting workplace cultures, considering the property management sector has lost 25 per cent of its workforce in the past couple of years.

Here, she offers her insight into how improved workplace culture can be achieved, including the ways the property management sector can attract and retain great talent, along with how women can be further encouraged into high-level real estate roles.

She offers her perspective on the healthy conversations all real estate businesses need to have in the knowledge the behaviour you walk past is what you accept, and says now’s the time to draw a line in the sand to ensure the situations women found themselves in 30 years ago are not repeated in the future.

“The worst thing you can do is when a woman comes up to you and says, ‘I’ve had this issue in the business’ and the director then turns around and says, ‘oh, but that person didn’t mean it’. We need to create a safe place for the women to actually have environments where they feel they can go and talk to someone, bring up an issue, and they’re going to be protected.” – Sadhana Smiles.

Sadhana and Leanne also discuss:

  • How real estate businesses can attract and retain great talent, particularly in property management.
  • Why creating a great workplace and keeping good people is all about leaders asking themselves ‘do I have the right environment?’.
  • How to make your work environment more inviting and ensure the experience is worth more than the money staff might enjoy elsewhere.
  • Sadhana’s experience as one of the first female leaders in the real estate sector, and what she hopes has changed in the years since.
  • Why Sadhana believes there should not be women specific awards, and how she hopes women in the industry will be celebrated in the future.
  • How more women can break through the glass ceiling, and why leaders need to consider who they encourage into leadership roles.
  • The conversations real estate businesses and leaders need to have to create greater diversity and security in the industry.
  • How leaders can draw a line in the sand and hold people accountable for poor behaviour to change the industry in the future.

And much, much more…

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Leanne Pilkington

Leanne Pilkington is Chief Executive Officer and Director of Laing+Simmons.