General Manager of GuocoLand (residential), Dora Chng shared her insights about working women today and whether being a woman in the real estate industry requires special skills to survive.
As General Manager (Residential) of GuocoLand — a premier real estate company renowned for their integrated mixed-use developments such as Guoco Tower, Singapore’s tallest building — Dora Chng is one of the most notable women in Singapore’s real estate industry. Ms Chng has close to 20 years of experience in the sales, marketing, and leasing of residential properties. Chng has the chops to affirm her position in the industry after having snagged awards for the group’s residential properties, some of which include Wallich Residence and Martin Modern. Her forte shines in product development, product positioning, and communications strategy. Since joining GuocoLand in 2014, she’s made a name for herself. LUXUO spent 15 minutes with the cheery and affable Ms Chng where she shared her insights as a woman working in the male-dominated real estate industry.
Why did you choose to go into the property industry?
I am a trained interior designer and took an interest in real estate when I started work as an interior designer. I began to fall in love with it because of the satisfaction that comes from helping people find their dream homes, and even more so now that I am part of the creative team which designs the developments.
What do you think about being a woman in a male-dominated industry?
Being a woman in a male-dominated industry can be challenging, but it can also be empowering. But I honestly do not feel that being a woman is a disadvantage for me in the real estate industry. In fact, I think that as women are more sensitive to everyone’s daily requirements, we can address the needs and wants of the end users better.
What do you think are some of the tenets of a working woman today?
It’s more challenging than ever being a working woman today as women have been advocating gender equality, fair opportunities as well as non-bias representation in leadership. So, the working world today is expecting more from women than before. However, the working women of today are multi-taskers who are more confident to voice out their stances for causes they care about. I think the modern women of today prefer flexible work arrangements to look after their young families or aged parents. In terms of professional development, many women are investing time and money in formal courses to improve their professional prospects.
I also believe many women are recognising that personal well-being is important, especially mental health. They are also more conscious of their physical well-being, too. So, I think women are more health conscious in the current digital age. I also see some women wanting to gain financial independence either to pamper themselves or basically feel proud of themselves. I also notice more women are taking time to volunteer in social causes, so they value their contribution to society.
What do you think the industry is lacking for women?
I genuinely do not feel that we have been disadvantaged as women in the real estate industry in Singapore. There has been greater gender diversity and equality and women in our industry have equal opportunities and representation in this industry.
What do you think about AI disrupting the property industry?
I think AI disruption has been benefitting the real estate industry in Singapore. It helps with productivity and efficiency in areas such as streamlining transaction time and resources at our showsuite (option generation system). In fact, AI is helping the real estate business not just in Singapore but the world over through augmented reality. This has helped buyers and sellers with new innovative ways to view and market properties, thus not only improving the experience but also reducing travelling time. In terms of sustainability, which is the buzzword currently, AI is helping real estate businesses to reduce their carbon footprint such as providing option documents digitally and reducing building energy costs through intelligent sensors. However, it is critical that AI is used ethically and responsibly.
What are some of the challenges you face in your work being a woman?
While I generally do not face many awkward challenges in my work as a woman, I do notice that it is still very difficult for married women with children to balance family and work commitments. It is often expected of women to be sacrificing their work advancement opportunities when they have young children or elderly family members to care for. With that said, I’ve also noticed that women in Singapore have made significant progress in the workforce e.g., the Head of Departments in GuocoLand is made up of a high percentage of women.
What kind of soft skills is important in your area of expertise?
Strong communication skills are crucial in motivating and leading a team, conveying strategies, and building strong relationships with stakeholders. Being a leader with high EQ is required — understanding the emotions of your team and clients so that one can respond adequately to build trust and rapport. We need to constantly approach marketing and sales strategies creatively to differentiate ourselves from competitors and be quick and effective in solving problems as they arise.
What would you like to see women working in this industry 10 years from now?
I am quite sure that employers and policymakers will take steps to address the challenges which women face now and create a more inclusive and supportive work environment for women in Singapore.
If you had a chance to tell your younger self, what advice would you give her?
Learnings and encounters on the job are indispensable stepping stones and opportunities. Accept the challenges with an open heart. Without these, I will not acquire the skills I have today.
What would you do in your capacity to change the mindset about women working in this industry?
I think the women in Singapore have been very fortunate, being able to enjoy the same education opportunities as our brothers. Therefore, I feel there is no disadvantage for us in the real estate industry. On the contrary, women need to empower themselves with the skills required in any capacity and embrace the challenges that come our way, if we are interested in being in this industry. If we had set our mind to do it, we would have won half the battle first. I am looking forward to seeing more husbands taking a supporting role in their families, allowing their wives to take centre stage in their careers.
Tell us something you like to do in your free time.
I am now investing time in my personal well-being as well, spending time exercising to build a stronger, more resilient body to handle more challenges ahead. Other than golf classes, I like to paint and spend time with my fur babies.
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