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October 3, 2019

Right Place, Right Time: Thriving as a working mum in the property industry

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After more than a decade in engineering, construction and property, Anne-Louise Fleming has seen these male-dominated fields evolve to embrace gender diversity. Now Development Manager at Dexus, she’s found an employer at the forefront of this shift, supporting women and men with tangible policies and actions. Having spent more than a year on parental leave, Anne-Louise shares her advice to women pursuing leadership roles in property and mums returning to work.

Graduating with a Bachelor of Engineering and a Bachelor of Science in 2007, Anne-Louise embarked on a dynamic career that would take her to all corners of Australia. She has worked on a number of impressive development projects from contemporary offices in Canberra, to the polished ‘Westfield’ in Pitt Street Mall, to a durable indigenous housing project in the blistering heat of the Northern Territory and a state-of-the-art health facility on the lower north shore of Sydney.

Having moved to Melbourne in 2013 for her first managerial role, Anne-Louise was introduced to Dexus in 2016 as one of her major clients.

“I started to get to know the team and I soon realised Dexus would be a great company to work for,” she shares.

Inspired to make a move, Anne-Louise relocated to Sydney to join Dexus as Development Manager on Office, City Retail and Health Projects. Three years on, she’s embedded in the Dexus team and has recently returned to work after more than a year on parental leave with her newborn son, John.

Today, she shares her advice to women pursuing a leadership role in property and offers tips for mums returning to work.

1) Seek an employer that actively improves gender equity

“It has been challenging in the past. Whenever I’ve enjoyed my role, it was because I was supported by people around me who weren’t fazed by gender. Now, for the first time ever, there are women around me – both senior leaders and team members.

So much has changed since I first entered engineering and property in the late 2000s. Right across the landscape, from construction to real estate, the sector is changing the way it employs women.

Dexus’s CEO, Darren Steinberg, is a founding member of Property Male Champions of Change which does incredible work spearheading policies, procedures and targets to drive gender diversity and support mums and dads returning to work. We still have a way to go, but we’re making good progress.”

Dexus has set a gender diversity target of least 40% female and 40% male representation in senior and executive management roles by 2021. They’ve already reached 37% female representation.

“I feel Dexus is pioneering support for women in property and I hope other businesses are doing as well as us in terms of reaping the benefits of gender diversity and equity,” Anne-Louise shares.

2) Embrace flexible working and work-life integration

The notion of working flexibly can be daunting to working mums in senior leadership positions. The key, Anne-Louise shares, is to be open about your needs and embrace all of the support streams available to you.

“I always worried about how difficult it would be to balance work with kids. Before Dexus, I didn’t think it would be possible. When I returned from parental leave, the People and Culture team took me through a coaching session on returning to work.

“Having a plan that works for me and my family and feeling comfortable to reach out to people at Dexus took away a lot of the stress and worry of returning to work. It’s been so great to transition back to work after a year – I feel like myself again.”

More than 80% of Dexus staff (81% men and 83% women) use flexible working arrangements under the company’s ‘All People Flex’ policy.

“The policy empowers everyone to do their best work in the way they need to. It’s more than a policy though – on the ground I feel supported to work flexibly. It allows me to continue doing what I love – creating wonderful spaces to improve the experience of the public and our customers, while spending precious time with my son.”

3) Connect with a mentor and other women who have gone before you

Returning to work, Anne-Louise shares, was made much easier with support from internal mentoring and coaching.

“Having a Dexus mentor through the 500 Women in Property program run by the Property Council of Australia has been instrumental in assisting my transition back to work.

My mentor is a senior leader at Dexus. When I was having a bad day, she sat me down and took me through the ups and downs of her experience returning to work after parental leave. It helped me normalise my experiences.

So many people at Dexus say they didn’t get to where they are, alone; mentors play a huge role. That’s something I really appreciate here – people are genuinely interested in supporting one another to succeed.”

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About the Author
WORK180 promotes organizational standards that raise the bar for women in the workplace. We only endorse employers that are committed to making real progress so that all women can expect better.

Looking for a new opportunity?

Our transparent job board only has vacancies from employers we endorse and lets you see what benefits, policies and perks come with the job.