Urgent Change Is Needed
What we are seeing now is that the industry is getting more females registering for property studies, says Nkuli Bogopa, president of the South African Institute of Black Property Practitioners (SAIBPP), but gender transformation is extremely slow within the industry.
“There’s a pipeline of younger people coming into the sector that is promising,” says Bogopa. “But once these women are offered work in the property sector, not enough is being done to promote and support them.
“They are not being elevated or promoted to the levels to which men get promoted, and they don’t get paid the same as men.”
Interestingly, this viewpoint is underscored by statistics in the one segment of the property industry where women do outnumber men. Portia Tau-Sekati, CEO of the Property Sector Charter Council (PSCC), says that among registered estate agents, 57 per cent are women, but when you dig a little deeper into the figures, there’s a different story being told.
“When I break down that national statistic into four categories —interns, full-status estate agents, principals, and attorneys —across all categories except one, females are higher. The only one that’s different is the principals —the owners of the businesses —and that is 57 per cent male. So the point is that even when there are more females in an industry, when it comes to owning and running businesses, we are still not leading.”
Telling Character Figures
In terms of the Property Charter, one of the measures of ownership is voting rights in an organisation. “Voting rights for black people are higher than the target we anticipated at 107 per cent, but we did not reach the voting rights of owners that are black women — we only achieved 77 per cent,” says Tau-Sekati.
A second measure is economic interest — the shares that black women own in the company. “We once again achieved only 71 per cent of our target in terms of economic interest for black women,” she says.
She explains that the targets for women at management levels —including middle, senior and executive management —were set low because of the general low levels in the industry. “It’s quite concerning that the number of women at all those levels is extremely low. Junior managers are appointed to last a lifetime. Companies are not putting enough effort into moving them up the ladder.”
She says that for this reason, every intervention necessary to improve gender representation in the industry “can’t be later than immediately. We have to take these analyses, take these results, unpack them into segment forums, and assign targets, conceptualise interventions and start these programmes immediately. They have to be interventions that actually help us to close the gap between what they’ve achieved and what they need to achieve”.
Networking And Collaboration Vital
Motseng Investment Holdings is owned and run by black women. Desireé Simba, the group chief financial officer, says it can be tough to break into the property sector. “In general, there is a barrier to entry in the industry for finance professionals with no property sector experience,” says Simba. “This needs to change to avoid restricting the sector to a limited group of professionals.”
She believes that property networks and incubation programmes provide good foundations for new entrants, and that strong relationship networks are key to remaining visible and relevant.
“Instead of going it alone, women interested in pursuing a career path in the property industry should be open to collaborating with other women in the sector, as this presents a stronger value proposition to prospective clients,” she says.