“Keep focused, keep agile, be determined.” | IWD guest blog: Caroline Marshall-Roberts at BuyAssociation

To mark International Women’s Day 2022, we asked some of our female leaders to answer a few questions about their working life and experiences as women in business. We’ve collated the responses for a series of blog posts.

Here, we’ve asked Caroline Marshall-Roberts, the Chief Executive and Founder of property business BuyAssociation, an organisation that provides access for investors, first-time buyers and owner-occupiers to acquire fantastic properties in prime locations before they are made available to the public, here thoughts on women in business. 

Check out her responses below!

As a strong female leader, have you experienced any pushbacks or barriers in your career, and how did you overcome them?

I think generally you have to work harder as a woman to prove yourself. 

I left school at 16 with my parents’ words of support ringing in my ears (“you’ll never amount to anything”) and, certainly compared to my older brother, who is now an award-winning scientist, I wasn’t obviously academic.  What I lacked in qualifications I made up for in determination, probably a response to my parents’ lack of belief in me.  I was utterly determined to prove them wrong, and at 18 I secured a job in sales at a well-known national magazine, where my peers were mainly university graduates.  Despite my lack of academic experience and on-paper intellect, maybe even because of it, I was almost invariably the top-performing salesperson.  

It was hugely rewarding to smash whatever target I was set, and to gain the recognition I’d yearned for growing up.  That recognition drove me to be the best I could be as I realised from a young age that I could get whatever I wanted if I worked hard enough, and the better I did the more recognition I got. This performance continued into 3 leading media companies over the 1990’s and with it came more responsibility – management, basically.  I still had a concern that my lack of a degree was ultimately going to be a brake on my overall ambitions, and so I decided to take control of my destiny, by starting my own business.  That way, I would be in control.

So, my main pushbacks or barriers were, 1) a lack of parental belief, which I dealt with by ignoring it, and 2) a lack of a degree, which I dealt with by changing the goalposts of what I need to be to lead a company. 

How have you been received as a female leader in the industry? 

I can only speak from my own experience, but I’d say that it’s been a mixed response, and for every person who only saw me as a businesswoman, there were plenty of men whose behaviours suggested that they held some resentment to having a woman as a boss, peer or even a client.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

Keep focused, keep agile.

What other female figures have inspired you in your career? 

I was fortunate enough to work at Capital Radio in Leicester Square for a few years during their zenith in the 1990s (the heady days of Tarrant and Blackburn). Our Sales Director Fru Hazlett was just amazing, a really inspiring and driven woman of whom I was constantly in awe.

Also, I must mention the Queen, for her commitment to an almost impossible job, still committed to selfless service to our country at 95.  What a brilliant example she sets.

What advice would you give to other females stepping into powerful roles in their Industries?

Keep focused, keep agile, be determined.

How has working in the property industry as a woman changed in the 15+ years you have been operating in it? 

It hasn’t changed as much as it should have.  There are more women getting into the property now, and more support and networking groups to join, but it’s still very much a male-dominated industry and I’m afraid I don’t see that changing dramatically any time soon – when you attend something like MIPIM where thousands of property people descend in Cannes for a few days, you realise just how male (and white and middle-class) the industry is.


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