Women: a valuable investment, in the world of commercial real estate

CommercialFriday 9 September 2016

Leading second tier real estate firm Burgess Rawson is at the forefront of its industry when it comes to savvy investing. Recently the company set another investment benchmark of a different kind.

Highly respected for its ability to identify superior investment opportunities, Burgess Rawson, which sells, manages, values and leases commercial investment assets, acknowledges women for playing a vital role in its continuing success.

According to Raoul Holderhead, a director of Burgess Rawson since 2002, “The Burgess Rawson commitment to appointing talented and skilled women to senior roles has contributed significantly to the impressive growth and success of this company over recent years.”

This strategy is supported by the findings of a Peterson Institute for International Economics working paper survey of nearly 22,000 firms globally, as reported in the Harvard Business Review; going from having no women in corporate leadership, to a 30% female share, is associated with a one-percentage-point increase in net margin. This translates to a 15% increase in profitability for a typical firm.

In 2011 Ingrid Filmer was appointed Chief Financial Controller of Burgess Rawson, having joined the company as Manager – Asset Management in 2005. Since her appointment, as core driver and controller of business finance and company direction, Burgess Rawson has enjoyed three-fold growth.

“When I accepted the role it was with uncertainty and trepidation. This was the biggest challenge of my life and I knew that stepping up would be definitive for me – and more importantly, for the future of the Burgess Rawson! I was indeed fortunate to have the unanimous support and confidence of the other directors – all male – who backed me 100%.

“My vision for Burgess Rawson was for it to become a leading company of the time within its field, managed by a female (women in top management positions were virtually unknown at this level in commercial real estate). My strategy was to retain the best practices of a solid and successful small business, while expanding its horizons, growing its market share, profitability and profile, with investment in staff and technology.

The company’s success is reflected in Ingrid’s own achievements. Today, accountable to five Equity Directors, Ingrid is Director-Asset Management, Chief Financial Controller, enjoys 17% ownership of Burgess Rawson, and has just been shortlisted in the 2016 Telstra Business Woman of the Year for her achievements.

“My proudest achievement is the role I have played in the Burgess Rawson success story; a reputation as a high achieving 2nd tier real estate firm, and increasing recognition as a progressive, inclusive, employer of choice.

Ingrid Filmer is very committed to improving opportunities for women in the work place.

“It is an embarrassment that the inclusion and advancement of women should require a special focus within our industry – opportunities for women must be identified and supported. At Burgess Rawson we value the ability of our female contingent to think laterally, conceptualise creative and alternative problem solving solutions, and multi task, when numerous undertakings must be managed simultaneously. The women on our team are first-rate negotiators, consistently facilitating a win-win for both our clients and our business.

“I continue to walk the talk and am proud that Burgess Rawson has a growing representation of talented females; 37% of the Property Management team are women.”

The recent appointment of specialist Childcare and Healthcare sales agent, Natalie Couper was cause for celebration at Burgess Rawson.

From property manager in regional Victoria, to a ten year career in London with a property investment company, then back to Australia where she managed a regional real estate firm, before moving to an innovative architectural firm. A new world of design fuelled Natalie’s knowledge and expertise in Healthcare and Childcare facilities. In 2016 Natalie brought her specialist skills to the Burgess Rawson team.

Burgess Rawson is seeing an increased level of enquiry from female investors with whom Natalie has established a strong rapport. Dealing with a female agent, helps some women feel more confident that they are on a level playing ground.

“It’s no longer the case of men making all the decisions when it comes to investing.

The majority of personnel within care based industries are women, so I believe there is a natural affinity for women to feel more comfortable investing in these sectors. We are seeing an equal balance between men and women investing in childcare and healthcare facilities.

“My work partner Adam Thomas provides a different perspective and together we make a great team ensuring the issues, perspectives and needs of all clients are equally represented in the investment decision-making processes.”

Gender equality is something Natalie rarely thinks about these days, although she certainly had to work hard to overcome the challenges of a very male dominated industry in the early days. “As a mid-30 year old blonde of youthful appearance, the challenge of convincing a 60 year old, sometimes third generation farmer that I could deliver the best sale result for his large land-holding was formidable. I constantly had to remind myself that I was a strong and capable individual. There were certainly some men along the way who seemed incapable of recognising my strengths!

“Commercial Real Estate is still a male dominated industry which thankfully is slowly changing. Women seem to have to work so much harder to win respect, than men do. Fortunately there is none of that sentiment at Burgess Rawson, which is most supportive of women. As the only woman working in Agency at this time, I am proud to have gained my colleagues respect, for my ability, hard work, and ultimately the results I achieve.”

Helen Kelleher has been Commercial Asset Manager at Burgess Rawson for more than three years, managing an extensive portfolio of retail units and large supermarkets. She is also Commercial Owners Corporation Manager

After completing her studies in Property Valuation and Estate Management in Ireland, followed by a heady time during the booming property market pre the GFC, Helen migrated to Australia in 2013.

“I was looking for a challenge. My ambition was to join an established middle tier property investment agency which was pro female – initially I was not sure this was even a possibility in such a predominately male industry! I was also seeking a family friendly workplace as I have a young daughter, and the opportunity of regular training opportunities appealed. Landing the position at Burgess Rawson seemed too good to be true at the time.

“I believe the property industry can offer an excellent career path for women, but you do need to find the right company! I have been fortunate. The work at Burgess Rawson is stimulating, fulfilling, and every day is different. There are challenges and Property Management is definitely not a 9 to 5 job. I am grateful that working within the Burgess Rawson structure, I can normally manage it all within a 38–40 hour working week.”

The Leasing clientele of Burgess Rawson is very well supported by Leasing Executive – Retail, Sophie Cunliffe. Sophie’s passion for the real estate industry since school days was the catalyst for her studies in Property and Valuations, and experience as an analyst for office leasing, following her graduation from RMIT in Melbourne.

Sophie manages both the management portfolio stock and is an expert when it comes to innovative prospecting for potential tenants. Sophie’s capacity to manage multiple projects concurrently is critical in her role, as she juggles the extensive communication requirements of tenants, landlords and Burgess Rawson. Open communication, and acting in the best interests of all parties is vital to her success.

“Project leasing excites me and the opportunity to seek out and find effective results for our landlords is addictive. Working with tenants to find solutions for their business needs is also very rewarding.

Most satisfying of all is to take an idea from concept through to deliverable leasing outcomes and commencement of operations, with positive financial benefits for the tenant, the landlord and which is profitable for Burgess Rawson is my measure of a job well done.”

According to Ingrid Filmer, “All the female executives at Burgess Rawson prove themselves daily. The firm is brilliantly supported by a team of very talented women, achieving excellent outcomes.”


Working here is like being part of one big family! The directors of the company go out of their way to make every single employee feel like a valuable asset to their business. The company is also very family focused which is warming within the workplace to have an understanding on life responsibilities outside the office.

Natalie Couper
Healthcare and Childcare Specialist


Burgess Rawson offers a rewarding and nurturing working environment. I am fortunate to be able to grow and develop my career in property at this leading company, surrounded by supportive and knowledgeable leaders.

Sophie Cunliffe
Leasing Executive


I am very lucky to work in an office where comradery and team spirit is very much a focus. Our working environment is excellent and I feel appreciated everyday by our directors. I couldn’t ask for a better team or director.

Helen Kelleher
Commercial Asset Manager