Singapore real estate gets a glow up with female leaders manning the industry

2021 PropertyGuru Asia Property Awards (Singapore) Jury Chairperson Kristin Thorsteins shares how businesses can further promote gender equality in the workplace

Kristin Thorsteins on the gender wage gap: “Motherhood is a penalising factor on a woman’s pay; according to OECD, a woman takes a 7% pay cut for every child she has!”

Historically, the real estate industry thrived in a highly male-dominated landscape and adapted much slower to gender parity than any other industry. In fact, the National Association of Realtors revealed that the first female agent was only allowed to join the organisation in the early 1900s and even then, women were not entitled to participate in the real estate boards until the 1950s. 

As years passed, the industry grew to be more open to the idea, eventually recognising the importance of women in the workplace. A 2018 report by McKinsey Global Institute stated that Singapore’s economy could add SGD26 billion (USD20 billion) if the city-state can successfully accelerate gender parity by 2025.

To achieve this, Kristin Thorsteins, the Head of Partnerships – SEA at IWG plc. and the Jury Chairperson for the 2021 PropertyGuru Asia Property Awards (Singapore), said: “One of the most important actions to increase gender parity is reducing the gender pay gap, which still persists and is caused by a multiplicity of factors.” 

For one, motherhood substantially affects how much a woman gets paid, particularly with the number of children. According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), a woman takes a seven percent pay cut for each child she has. 

To close this gap, the mother and the father will both have to adjust and share greater parental responsibilities between them. She also added that “employment policies [providing] both paid maternity and paternity leave [can] help achieve gender parity by increasing the dad’s participation in childcare and reducing gender stereotyping in childcare and domestic responsibilities. 

Down the right path 

Singapore is considered one of the most advanced countries in Asia – and for good reason. The country has taken massive strides in pushing forward climate action and improving the quality of life of its citizens. 

In addition, Thorsteins shared that the real estate industry haalso made progress towards equality, naming several women in high positions such as Wanshi Zheng of Frasers Property and Wei Leng Tang of Colliers who are “fantastic role models for younger women aspiring for a career in this industry.” 

However, she did admit noticing more women working in consultancy and asset management, yet still see under-representation in certain sectors, such as private investment funds. 

As for women who are interested in pursuing a career in real estateshe wanted to highlight that most women are under the assumption that hiring a career coach can help in advancing their careers. Although these coaches can serve as great sounding boards and can offer great advice, she suggested looking for a sponsor within the industry or organisation instead.  

“Identifying a sponsor can make all the difference. A sponsor will advocate for you, assist you in gaining visibility within the organisation, and fight to help you rise through the ranks. So don’t be afraid to look for a senior-level person who has the power and position to open doors for you.” 

Breaking gender norms

Thorsteins is among the women who have not only overcome gender barriers, but have also made valuable contributions to the industry. With over 15 years of experience in hotel and real estate development and advisory across Europe and Asia, she is a recognised leader in real estate, regularly sharing her insights as a panellist and speaker at several hotel & real estate investment conferences across the region. She is also a member of the Urban Land Institute – Hotel Development Council & Women’s Leadership Initiative.  

Her predecessor, Partner at SPARK Architects Wenhui Lim has also been devoting her time to transforming the local real estate landscape by advocating for smart buildings and sustainable design. She remains to be a Jury for the Awards and was the first female Chairperson of the Judges in the country. 

Other prominent female industry figures returning as this year’s judges are Carolina Fagnani, the Senior Director of Development in South East Asia and Pacific at Radisson Hotel Group, and Joelle Chen, the Sustainability Director of Singapore Landlease.  

Year after year, the PropertyGuru Asia Property Awards (Singapore) celebrates real estate leaders that have made a significant impact in the industry. Celine Tang, the Group Managing Director of SingHaiyi Group Ltd., was the first woman to receive the prestigious PropertyGuru Real Estate Personality of the Year accolade in 2018. Tang makes up half of the renowned billionaire power couple in Singapore who has been promoting corporate social responsibility in the sector and has acquired millions worth of properties in Singapore and Asia over the years. 

Kemmy Tan, the Chief Executive Officer of M+S Pte Ltd, also had the honour of accepting the award in 2019 for her leadership in developing outstanding projects that have raised the standards of living in the country. 

Diversity and recognition 

The diversity of the judging panel and Real Estate Personality roster is also echoed in the 2021 categories of the prestigious competition. With a wide range of segments covered, the 2021 edition has open categories for Best Mega-Scale Condo Development, Best Retail Development, Best Hotel Development, the never-before-presented award of Best Integrated WFH (Work From Home) Development, and much more. 

For over a decade, the PropertyGuru Asia Property Awards have been recognising exceptional developers, developments, and designs that strive to improve the quality of life of their communities. Individuals looking to honour firms and their leaders can show their appreciation by nominating them at, whereas interested participants can register at until 17 September. 

Supervised by third-party practice HLB Singapore Foo Kon Tan, eligible entries will be judged on 14 October. The esteemed independent Judging Panel for this year also includes Atelier Ten’s Henry Woon, Greg Shand Architects’ Robert Greg Shand, The Dentons Rodyk Real Estate Group’s Chua Shang Chai, and Surbana Jurong Private Limited’s Dr. Teo Ho Pin. 

The Winners and Highly Commended awardees will be announced on 19 November at the Shangri-La Singapore, where the organisers will host a safely conducted black-tie gala dinner and awards ceremony. The gala event and presentation will also be livestreamed across the page and the Awards’ official Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and YouTube channels. Meanwhile, the History Channel, the Awards’ official cable TV Partner, will be broadcasting the highlights of the programme for international viewers.

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