Property Woman of the Year – sexist nonsense or valid competition?

I followed an interesting twitter link which led me to the  article below…. this is what Property Hawk had to say about the NLA’s Property Woman of the Year competition:

Firstly, I want to congratulateJuliet Ashton-Taylorwho was crowned queen of the female landlords at the latest Women in Property Awards.

However, whilst not wanting to trivialise her personal achievements; I wonder whether the very nature of this type of award is not patronising to women. Does it say as much about the perception of the male middle aged leaders of the traditional landlord organisations that promote them.

“Oh well done dear. Haven’t you done well & you did it all yourself?”

Surely if you are going to have a landlord award then it should be open to all. My perception is that female landlords have long ago left behind many of their male competitors having a natural aptitude for detail. Personally, I see female landlords as my competitors & not a group to be patronised.

Sorry girls – I’m all about running a modern rental business and that means war!

Hmmmm. Not sure if I agree with Property Hawk about it being open to all. I guess if we can have Soap Actress of the Year, wecan have Landlady Property Woman of the Year 🙂 Nothing wrong with celebrating successful, high achieving female property bods, or as David Salusbury, Chairman of the NLA puts it “The standard of the 2010 entrants has once again been outstanding. Each year the judges are looking for dedicated and inspirational women who regularly go above and beyond….”

To me as a property woman it all sounds good so far, as long as the competition and organisers ensures a) it isn’t at any stage patronising and b) due diligence is done. Ah. Unfortunately…. these are the reasons I personally have an issue with it and I’ll explain why. In 2008 I was shortlisted for the NW regional award, then sponsored by Bradford & Bingley.

The judging criteria was advertised as:

Judging will be based on your financial nous, feedback from your tenants, how long it took to build your business, how you run it and your personal drive and determination to succeed. We don’t want much do we?

Pretty comprehensive and fair judging criteria. Only that’s not how they did it. They chose the regional winners without any contact with tenants, visiting properties or inspection as to standards, which I thought was a shocker (and other entrants agreed) so I said so. They ignored me. So I said so in writing. This is part of what I said:

How can the judges decide on the regional winners, based on the competition’s stated criteria, when:

No verification checks have been done about the claims made by the entrants on their own entry forms
No evidence has been provided as to how they run their businesses, in the form of an interview, or references provided by, for example, a bank or trade contacts
No examination has been made of the condition of the entrants’ properties, even in the form of photographs, which every landlord has for marketing purposes.

To bestow a title like Property Woman of the Year without the basic checking of any of these facts does not make any sense. Anyone can claim anything they wish on their entry form and be judged soley on these words, and more importantly, compared soley on their own words, instead of, as should be the case, their properties and business be checked to see if they are in fact worthy of that title, so there is come independent verification of the entrants credentials.
I was informed by the PR company that this is standard protocol. This is nonsense. When ,for example, the Sunday Times runs its business competitions, do they decide the winners based on the winners claims?!

The whole idea for the competition is fantastic and there certainly should be a vehicle where women succeeding in the buy-to-let arena, and the property development world as a whole, should be recognised and acknowledged for their achievements. The amateurish way this competition is being run however, lets down the very women it intends to celebrate. If inspirational women like Fiona Fullerton, who fronts this campaign, ran their property companies with this kind of poor due diligence, they would bankrupt in months.
It is more than obvious that the competition is not a competition at all, but rather a PR exercise run to promote the name of the Bradford & Bingley in the press, otherwise the whole thing would have been run with more investigation. I would imagine that you have had many professional and serious minded women entering this competition, and they have found the process of decision making to be insubstantial and poorly organised. I have spoken to a couple of the other entrants who feel the same way.

They disagreed and told me that they had stuck to their criteria.

I also questioned why there seemed to be a lot of sob stories amongst the winners. We all have personal issues, problems and obstacles we’ve overcome in life to get where we are, no question of that. But bringing divorce, miscarriages, illness and general females woes into a competition of this types undermines it unnecessarily and in my opinion makes it all a bit pathetic. Can you IMAGINE a competition for men where part of what they’re judged on is their ability to build a business after getting through a tough divorce, having a problem with their down-below bits or doing it despite being only 5’2″. Ridiculous. It’s tough enough being a woman in a man’s world without this type of patronising nonsense. The organisers then admitted that “overcoming personal obstacles” was one of the criteria given to the judges, even though it hadn’t been advertised, so those entrants who’d also included a great sob story were at an advantage, unbelievable. It wasn’t about how great your properties were or how professional your standards, but whether you’d had it tough and still ‘coped’, you brave little woman, you. Arghhhhhh.

This made me blaze, how can you advertise criteria then change them half way through and tell the judges to look for something different, I asked? We didn’t, they said, we ran it all properly. Bollocks, I said and complained to the ASA, who agreed with me. They looked at the way the competition had been run and upheld the complaint – telling the Bradford and Bingley they’d breached various Codes and telling them to make sure what they advertised was what they did in future years.

Well, that was great and all concerned got slapped hands but it didn’t change the fact that, for me, all the personal stuff that should have nothing to do with a competition to find the Property Woman of the Year was now an official criteria. I don’t want to be subjectively judged by random people I’ve never met on my personal life and ability to deal with it whilst building a business, thanks. If they want to come and look at my properties and decide whether they are up to scratch, fine. If they want to come speak to my tenants and find out if I’m a dragon, fine. But that’s not the way it’s done and that’s why I won’t be entering until it becomes simply about the property. Or I get divorced 😉

ADDENDUM: Having read all about the 2010 competition and it’s winners, ALL of whom I am sure are hard working, dedicated, competent and inspirational women, once again the focus was all about the personal stuff. Even the press release focused on the overall winner’s divorce. I’m interested in seeing their houses, hearing quotes from their tenants and what makes them tick, not how crappy their ex-husband was, save it for the piece in the Daily Mail, a personal blog or the biography. Yes, these sorts of stories inspire women who have hit the skids for whatever reason to think ‘I could do that’ and pick themselves up and start again but they should NOT NOT NOT form the basis for deciding whether you are Property Woman of the Year!! Oh lord, when will we women ever learn?

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