This Big Interview features Sarah Rock, a Senior Associate for Fladgate and board member of Freehold, a networking and support forum for LGBTQI+ real-estate professionals
Within the housing sector, there are many issues with regards to accessibility and diversity. A common topic of discussion within the sector focuses on the gender divide between men and women, The industry sees more men in senior positions as well as participating in the actual aspects of construction. However, there is seemingly less discussion around the lack of LGBTQI+ within the sector. Though conversation is beginning to occur around why LGBTQI+ are not turning to the housing sector to bolster their career, and what more the industry is doing to change this, it is important to continually amplify these voices. Therefore, this fascinating Big Interview provides that voice to this marginalised group with Sarah Rock detailing interesting ways in which the sector can do more to become a safe pace for all. So, what does Sarah Rock have to say?
Could you provide me with some background on the forum?
Freehold was established 11 years ago by Lawyer Saleem Fazal, Partner at Taylor Wessing, and Surveyor David Mann, Partner at TFT. They had been working on a project together, but neither were out (or openly gay) at that stage yet.
As part of the project, both with their respective partners, had a chance meeting and decided there and then to do something for the LGBTQI+ community in the property industry. From this, Freehold was set up to help LGBTQI+ professionals working in real estate to network and build the community.
During the last decade David and Saleem have pioneered the push to create a better working environment for LGBTQI+ people in property. The forum aims to create momentum for change by enabling others to gain the self-confidence to come out within their organisations, to become role models and be that catalyst for improving the visibility of the LGBTQI+ community in the property sector.
From humble beginnings to now having over 1,000 members, the network is going from strength to strength. Both David and Saleem have subsequently stepped down as Co-Chairs of Freehold, taking on new roles as Freehold Ambassadors. They have handed the baton over to the current Co-Chairs, Kelly Canterford, Director at Tigrou Consulting, and Scott Parsons, Chief Operating Officer at Unibail Rodamco Westfield.
What do you perceive to be the most important industry trend right now?
Within the property sector the most important trends now have to be the Building Safety Fund and Building Safety Act – both look to be game changers. The cladding and fire safety crisis that followed the Grenfell Tower and Bolton Cube fires revealed that many buildings in the UK had been clad in dangerously combustible materials. This has left thousands of people vulnerable in dangerous high-rise properties across the UK. The Government’s policies around this topic look set to make a real change in this area with lots of work to come.