Tanya Trevisan udia wa perth
Tanya Trevisan. Photo taken by Sven Colic.
  • A crucial aspect of learning is finding mentors who will support and guide you throughout your career journey
  • Trevisan emphasizes educating on the value of quality infill development in appropriate locations
  • If women work mostly from home, their visibility and long-term gender equality in career progression could be a concern

The name Tanya Trevisan is synonymous with the development industry in Perth, having worked in the construction and property industry for over 35 years and volunteering in the industry for over 20 years.

Ms Trevisan gained her qualifications in Architecture at the University of Western Australia and has held senior positions in some of the biggest development companies in the state including Frasers Property Australia, Iris Residential and M/Group (formerly Match).

She has risen to the top with hard work, determination and a love for an industry that she says is challenging, extraordinary and rewarding.

Despite her success and recent recognition as UDIA WA’s Women in Leadership Award winner, Ms Trevisan admits to still experiencing a level of imposter syndrome, that nagging feeling of self-doubt despite evident success.

Imposter syndrome is perhaps something that many women can relate to, particularly in an industry such as property and construction where women in the workplace have been few and far between until more recent years.

While more women are choosing property as a career path, there is still a long way to go, and Ms Trevisan says that she is keen to encourage more women to have a voice and be part of the change that they want to see happen.

That passion to attract more women to the industry could be considered even more critical now that we are amid a critical national property and construction skills shortage.

“We are not drawing from the whole pool,” Ms Trevisan said.

“If, in my role as an ambassador this year, I can encourage more women to realize an ambition, or return to work, or enter the workforce within our industry, then that would be a brilliant thing to do.”

Ms Trevisan’s passion for encouraging women to challenge themselves and keep their aspirations high, comes in no small part from her own experience.

While Ms Trevisan has achieved great success in an industry that she loves, there have been challenges along the way, starting in London and Berlin when she was a young woman paving her own way in some of the largest cities in the world.

“I was twenty-two when I left Western Australia to go and work in London, I would be in a consultant meeting and not only was I very young, but also usually the only female.

“I would often be the only female within the project I was working on. That can be intimidating, and I felt like I stood out like a red nose on a clown, but as I became older and more experienced, I could appreciate that I had many amazing, positive experiences where people have been keen for me to learn.”

Importance of Mentors

A big part of learning is finding those people that are willing to guide and support you through different phases of your career journey.

Ms Trevisan says that she has had three important career mentors that have helped shape her career and provided valuable advice and guidance along the way.

“My first mentor was my employer from when I lived and worked as a young architectural graduate in Berlin in the early 1990s.

“Prof O.M Ungers was one of Germany’s most renowned architects at that time and was also both supportive and inspiring to his employees – through his absolute belief in and commitment to the important role of good design in cities, and also through what was no doubt the deliberate curation of an encouraging, equitable and positive culture in the workplace.

“On reflection, my time in Berlin was a key sliding door moment for my career ahead. The office won the international design competition for the Friedrichastadt Passagen project, which is arguably still one of Berlin’s most significant CBD sites.

“I expressed an interest, from the basis of no real knowledge only youthful enthusiasm and too much self-confidence, to be the design lead for the 36 ‘build to rent’ apartments within this $550 million mixed-use project.

“Prof Ungers offered me the opportunity, and armed with only youth and enthusiasm, I took that opportunity.

“Long story short, that’s how I ‘fell’ into what has become a 30-year learning curve, and my career focus and passion.”

Designing Neighbourhoods

That focus and passion is the delivery of well-designed apartment, medium density and mixed-use projects, in particular around Local Neighbourhood Centres.

Ms Trevisan has been involved with the delivery of large scale projects in London, Berlin, Sydney, Melbourne and Perth, including as Project Director of the first accredited GBCA Green Star rated MURT (Multi-unit Residential Tool) apartment project in Australia.

Infill development is an area that tends to attract significant community concern in a maturing city such as Perth and Ms Trevisan believes that it is important to build greater understanding around the importance and benefits of delivering quality infill development in appropriate locations.

“I’d really love to drive home the benefits of offering housing diversity within your own community. I have personal experience of this, from my own daughter moving out to an apartment very recently.

“To stay in the same area, often the only option is an apartment because buying a house in the central established suburbs will be unaffordable for many young people for years to come.

“I also know this from the projects that I’ve worked on, you get a huge number of downsizers who want to stay within their local area, but they want to scale down because their kids have left the family home.

“So, the importance of creating sustainable, walkable neighbourhoods is a key focus for me and is a passion that started in Berlin in 1991,” Ms Trevisan said.

Pandemic Impacts

With fostering vibrant local neighbourhoods a key focus, the impact of the pandemic on our neighbourhoods and indeed our CBD, is an important and current issue that also needs consideration.

“The impact on the increase in people working from home on community cohesion and neighbourhood centres is interesting,” Ms Trevisan said.

“Anecdotally I see a lot more professional people in my neighbourhood who were previously absent Monday to Friday. Meetings are held in my local café and the local economy has benefited from this too.

“People have embraced the flexibility working from home offers and easily usable software such as Teams and Zoom have provided. The test, however, is what long term impact this will have on Australian central business districts, especially in Perth given the centre of the CBD can hardly be described as mixed use.”

Workplace Culture

The increasing work from home phenomenon is not just having an impact on our neighbourhoods, it is also influencing workplace culture.

“I worry that younger people entering the workforce enter a place where many of their colleagues are not there every day.  Speaking from my own personal experience it can be extremely challenging to establish new teams and to provide orientation to new team members in that sort of environment.

“It’s about learning to deal with absence, it isn’t easy and I am not confident that mentoring teams and protecting an established healthy office culture can work effectively in that context,” Ms Trevisan said.

The other aspect of the rise of working from home goes back to Ms Trevisan’s earlier comments in relation to supporting women in the sector.

“If women choose too much work from home as a percentage of time spent in the office, the worry is whether they will become invisible in the workplace, and what does this mean for longer term equal gender career progression?”

Part of the detraction for women choosing a career in property is the lack of women already working in the sector, Ms Trevisan believes it can be off putting when you cannot see role models that you will be able to follow.

“That is why I encourage women to participate, and part of that is just be brave, you have to overcome those fears because if you want change, you’ve got to be part of the change.”

That willingness to put yourself ‘out there’ does come with a level of pressure and Ms Trevisan says she has definitely felt that pressure over the years.

Tanya and Eliza_feminism
Tanya and Eliza. Image: Supplied.

“When I was appointed as the first female President of the Property Council in 2017, I felt that pressure in a kind of crushing way.

“But then I look back and I’m really proud of having stepped up, because my automatic answer wasn’t ‘yes’, I was really anxious. But I do very much believe that you can’t be a pedestrian in life, if you want to see change you have to own it.”

Ms Trevisan also advises that for many women (and men), the ideal of work life balance is unattainable and it can put undue pressure on people to feel like they need to achieve this balance that is just not realistic when life is a constant juggle.

“There will be days when you have a huge deadline, and your child has just pulled up with conjunctivitis and can’t go to childcare and plans change, you have to be flexible,” Ms Trevisan said.

“We’ve got to understand that we are not living in a perfect world every day and you just need to give it your best go and be kind to yourself.

“Don’t set out to be superwoman, that’s an impossible pathway that will set you up for failure. Set yourself some goals in terms of your own personal priorities and leave the other goals for another time.”

In closing, Ms Trevisan believes that volunteering is a solid demonstration of leadership and once again, encourages people to get involved with issues they feel strongly about with honesty and without agenda.

Ms Trevisan is considering her future options, including development consultancy and roles on Boards as she moves into the next phase of her career.

“I am currently in the situation where I stopped working at the end of last year and I am looking for new opportunities. I am not sure where I will end up but hopefully, I will listen to myself and follow my own advice.”


This story was originally published in The Urbanist magazine, an official publication of the Urban Development Institute of Australia (WA). It has been edited for republication by The Property Tribune. 

The Property Tribune thanks the UDIA WA for the opportunity to republish the work, and share thought leadership in relation to urban development and community creation with our readers.

Read the original copy of The Urbanist by heading to UDIA WA’s website under the News tab.

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