The PropTech industry in Australia is undergoing a fundamental change with the number of women launching startups on the rise.
PropTech growth accelerator, REACH Australia, has started to see a big increase in the number of women founding companies, with their latest cohort having an even mix of male and female founders.
This is the first time there has been 50 per cent male-female ownership in any cohort in the 24-year history of the REACH program and suggests women are now moving into the traditionally male-dominated tech sector.
According to APIM, female founders currently make up just 17.4 per cent of PropTech companies founded in Australia, compared to the broader real estate industry, where 49 per cent of agents and 68 per cent of property managers are women.
Director of the REACH Australia program, Ebonnie Schravemade, said they have been actively encouraging women to start PropTech companies.
“We don’t have a lot of control over who applies for the REACH program, but if it works out that we can select a diverse group, that’s absolutely one of our considerations amongst other things,” Mrs Schravemade says.
“We’re also trying to give our female founders an opportunity to speak and present and give them an opportunity to have a voice.”
She says they are also actively highlighting the roles women are taking on in the accelerator program through the media, hoping it will encourage more women to go down the same path.
Mrs Schravemade believes female-led companies offer a number of unique advantages in real estate that will help shape the direction of the industry and lead to more inclusive, equitable policies and practices.
“Women offer a completely different perspective to men,” she says.
“They tend to be more nurturing, more balanced and empathetic in their leadership styles.
“Their recruitment and hiring policies tend to be more inclusive.
“Quite often women-led companies tend to be more socially beneficial PropTechs and women-led companies would seem to have a keener understanding of their consumer base.”
Women on the front line
Quant PS, Chief Operating Officer, Fran Nicol believes women should be more heavily involved in PropTech because they are the ones that are actually using the tools on a day-to-day basis.
“Given how many women are within the real estate industry, they have a hell of a lot to give in terms of designing software and PropTech because they are quite often the ones that are using the technology and software,” Ms Nicol says.
“They know the tech inside out and they are the perfect people to be solving the problem.
“And they shouldn’t exclude themselves from solving the problems.”
Mrs Schravemade says women are considered to be the primary decision-makers when it comes to buying or renting a home and their inclusion in technology supporting the real estate industry is vital to its relevance and ongoing success.
Properti, Co-Founder and CCO, Babette Coutanche said adding a more balance would only benefit the industry.
“I think in all technology, female leadership is probably needed to balance it out,” she explained.
“Their ability to nurture the team, in what’s a very black and white industry with many engineers being very non-emotional and very straightforward, it’s important to bring that mix into the industry.
“When you’re in an industry where your customers are heavily female, the question is how do you bring the two together?”
Women-led companies are also often more focused on creating solutions that meet the needs of underrepresented groups such as single mothers, elderly people or those with disabilities according to Mrs Schravemade.
Promoting success stories
Mrs Schravemade believes that more can also be done within the industry.
“VCs and accelerators can be looking to foster companies with diversity as a central aspect of their selection criteria,” she said.
“We can always be promoting the fantastic women in PropTech in order to raise the profile of women across the board.
“I think we can also be better at recruiting women in the space.
“As a woman who has formerly operated within a property technology company, I definitely felt as though my achievements were not given the same recognition as males who were similarly successful.”
According to Mrs Schravemade, given the large number of females in the real estate industry, it might be time to look within for new ideas.
“Perhaps a solution to this issue has been staring us in the face,” she explained.
“Maybe we should be looking to foster ideas from inside the existing real estate community in the hopes of finding more diversity in our PropTech founders.”
Leading by example
Founder and CEO of Realtime Conveyancer, Kylie Dillon said an important step was to have other female leaders in the industry who can mentor and guide women coming through.
“I think I’ve been really lucky in that I’ve had some amazing mentors around me who have been female,” Ms Dillon said.
“Founding a startup can be quite scary, but taking those next steps and having the mentoring around you and sharing knowledge can really help.”
Ms Coutanche also hopes to be a role model to other female founders.
“Leading by example is my thing and we’ve got a lot of women in our company and I’m giving a lot of women an opportunity to step out of their industry and into another one, where they didn’t think they could have a career change,” she said.
Despite more women launching startups, Ms Schravemade said companies still need to focus on having the best possible leaders.
“It always comes down to the leader whether male or female as to their success,” she explains.
“But yes, just as there are great male leaders out there, equally there are fantastic female PropTech leaders.”