FORCE FOR NATURE
Driving the female agenda in property
Founded in 2001, the Women’s Property Network has a simple but powerful vision: substantially increase the participation of women in the commercial property sector across the value chain and in the driving seat.
We are a membership-based organisation that thrives on engagement and interaction with our members from across the property sector. We count many listed properties companies as well as small businesses and individuals among our members and our engagements are through our regional Chapters in Gauteng, the Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal and of course through our various activities nationally.
- As a women-led advocacy and knowledge organisation our mandate has always been to promote the participation and integration of women within the commercial property space. We do this through various platforms and activities:
- We lend a strong and leading voice in the advocacy and advancement of the gender equality conversation.
- We create platforms through which women can engage for the purpose of sharing knowledge, skills and resources that can be ploughed back into the environments in which we operate.
- We foster partnerships where we are a network of networks across various industry bodies.
- We grow talent through the Women Property Network (WPN) Educational Trust and by supporting the advancement of the Student Chapter agenda at our key tertiary institutions.
- We have been recognising outstanding women in the property industry at our Annual SA Women in Property Awards (SAWIPA), where we celebrate women – both regionally and nationally – who have stepped up and shaped women’s roles within South Africa’ s commercial property sector.
- And importantly, we advance the climate agenda for a resilient property industry.
More than two decades since the WPN officially launched and a proud history of achievements later, we can see that we have made inroads. While we, no doubt, continue to have our work cut out, we can see an increase in women representation on boards and in decision-making positions across the commercial property sector, some of which is evidenced in the WPN’s 2021 inaugural report on the “State of Gender Diversity in the Listed Real Estate Sector”, where we see a 5% increase in female representation on boards between 2013 and 2020. By 2020, 20% of executive director positions in the SA REIT sector were occupied by women. So, it’s onwards and upwards and it represents golden opportunities for companies and organisations to lead by pushing gender diversity forward, purposefully and meaningfully.
“We need more qualified women on corporate boards – and we need boards to value the sustainable thinking that women bring to the table. We need rising stars to show how the construction industry can provide challenging and rewarding career options that also make a positive social and environmental impact.”
– Romilly Madew, former CEO: Green Building Council, Australia
THE WPN EDUCATIONAL TRUST
A considerable part of our mandate focuses on the WPN Educational Trust, which was specifically set up to ensure that women in the commercial property sector have opportunities for further education. The Trust particularly supports young women from previously disadvantaged backgrounds to grow in the industry and further their career objectives.
Through our members’ contacts and networks, we can secure female participation in the industry’s educational activities, we support development and growth through skills development workshops/programmes and importantly every year we make available several bursaries at tertiary institutions for approved property courses. Applications for the 2023 WPN bursaries will open in November 2022 follow this link.
THE STUDENT CHAPTER
The WPN maintains Student Chapters at our key tertiary institutions, with the University of Pretoria Chapter having just been launched. Student membership is available – and free – to all female students in second year and above, studying towards a property-related degree or diploma. The Chapters run regular networking events and are a hive of activity and engagement. To join, follow this link.
WHERE TO NEXT?
The challenges of the past couple of years have not left us unscathed and delivering on our mandate has not been easy. But now that we find ourselves in a manageable (post-) Covid world, we are again rolling up our sleeves: to re-energise our mandate, to re-start our conversations and to re-connect with our members.
And the timing couldn’t be better: in the climate space, the property sector is clearly at the nexus of mitigation and resilience. In my role as the new Chair of the Gauteng Chapter of the WPN and as the founder and director of Ecocentric, a green building consultancy which I established in 2007, I understand the critical role of women in the green property industry.
As women we bring a truly unique perspective to the built environment; we tend to be great systems thinkers and we know how to build relationships across disciplines and outside our professional communities. We know that moving beyond silos and into meaningful and accelerated collaboration is critical on a path to what I still hope will be reversing a climate breakdown and preventing catastrophic biodiversity loss. This is where we as women are needed. And when I look around, so many of my colleagues in the green building industry are female – from those of us running small green building consultancies to the formidable CEO of the GBCSA, Lisa Reynolds, from my incredible all-women team at Ecocentric to the exceptional women in the sustainability driving seat at property funds.
Where education has always been a central tenet of our mandate, we are now actively extending this into bringing everyone along on the sustainability journey. We recently introduced our monthly Women in Green Series, an online – and offline – platform for topical conversations, education and information sharing in the green property space. We are opening this up to everyone – members and non-members alike and even the guys are welcome
Over the next few months, we will cover topics ranging from setting science-based net-zero targets across property portfolios, we will unpack embodied carbon concepts, explore the pivotal role of small businesses in tackling climate change and run through the immense business opportunities that present themselves in the green property sector.
Together we can leverage our network of impactful women in the property industry to accelerate the sustainability and female agenda. Talk to us, follow us, join us. We are always open to conversations, ideas and partnerships
Thuli Mpuntshe, Senior Manager: Indirect Investments
Gauteng: Jutta Berns, Founder and Director:
Western Cape: Lara Schenk, Asset and Leasing
Manager: Ingenuity Property Investments
WPN EDUCATIONAL TRUST: TRUSTEES
Ipeleng Mkhari, CEO: Motseng Investment Holdings
Jackie van Niekerk, CEO: Attacq
Refqah Ho-Yee, Director: Smith Tabata Buchanan Boyes
WPN NATIONAL COORDINATOR
Tel: 031 764 4645 Email: email@example.com
Thirty-two-year-old Kedibone Tsiloane is the founder of Ramtsilo Manufacturing and Construction – a proudly South African, 100% black female owned sustainable manufacturing and construction company. Ramtsilo’s mission is to do everything possible to provide innovative and sustainable solutions to the global plastic pollution pandemic. The company has created a circular green economy in the plastic recycling and building material industry. They provide waste management and recycling services for plastic waste pollution, which is used in the manufacturing of strong, durable and fireretardant bricks. Tsiloane shares that she was inspired to begin Ramtsilo due to her growing up in a construction household, where her dad frequently took her on site. Ramtsilo started in 2013 as a construction business, however, because they had been spending so much money on building materials, specifically bricks, they made the decision to manually manufacture their own bricks at home. “We are from the township and upon discussion with one of the waste collectors we learnt that plastic waste collection in conjunction with the recycling of plastic has created a source of revenue for the unemployed. We began prototyping the use of plastic in brick making since 2016 and in 2017 we had a product that we were comfortable with, which we took for testing. The results were much better than we expected, and we formally went into the market in 2019.” When asked what motivates her as an innovator and drives her innovations, Tsiloane says, “Wanting to make a lasting difference, creating lasting solutions to everyday problems.” Being a firm believer in good old persistence, Tsiloane says what separates her from other innovators is that she always sees things through, no matter how difficult things get. “It should be a subject at school, without us thinking in a sustainable manner there will be no “future’ for us or the next generation,” she adds. Looking to her future, Tsiloane shares that she aspires to create more innovative solutions that change how we live our lives on a daily basis. She further goes on to share her hopes for the manufacturing and construction industry, “I hope the industry will be more receptive to change and innovation. While the traditional ways have worked, we need to get to a point where the industry is open to new ways of doing things.” As a woman working in a largely male-dominated industry, she credits her parents for instilling values in her that have allowed her to navigate this somewhat intimidating environment, “One thing my parents made sure we knew growing up is that there isn’t a man’s role and a woman’s role. So, when we encounter challenges based on gender, we face them head on and we remind ourselves that we are not here by chance. We put in the work thus we have created a space for ourselves in this industry through hard work and persistence.
Thuli Zulu is the African Lead of an International Interior Company, INC Group. Launched in 2008 in the UAE, INC Group has been delivering excellence for over 12 years, with Africa being the newest arm of the business. With foundations grounded firmly in the ethos of structure, transparency and confidence, INC Group is able to deliver full turnkey interior solutions. Being driven by the aspiration to deliver tailor-made projects, INC’s inspiring and creative female-led workforce proudly specialises in premium services such as design, interior construction, furniture supply and IT solutions. Thuli holds a BSC in Property Studies (Hons) degree, which she obtained at the Witwatersrand University in Johannesburg, South Africa. She has since completed several courses and industryrelated qualifications through UCT Graduate School and Gibs Business School. Throughout her career, Thuli has served on various committees, including the Women’s Property Network Gauteng Chapter as well as the Alumni for The Graça Machel Women Creating Wealth Programme. With over 13 years’ experience in commercial property, Thuli’s background spans across various sectors in the industry, from commercial property broking, leasing consultancy and trading and acquisitions, to commercial property development and interior design and build. Her fundamental strengths include deal making and account management as well as coordinating, managing and leading design and build teams. Thuli has been instrumental in the successful delivery of various projects from her blue-chip client base and in successfully forming and managing relationships with diverse clients.
Passionate about real estate and influencing project execution, Melinda Isaacs is a seasoned Development Manager and a Member of the Royal Institute for Chartered Surveyors, a registered member of the South African Council for the Quantity Surveying Profession and an accredited professional with the Green Building Council of South Africa. With extensive experience in retail and hospitality projects, and as a Development Executive at Liberty Two Degrees (L2D), a leading precinct-focused, retail-centered REIT, Melinda has a proven track record spanning 15 years in development initiatives, in some of South Africa’s leading shopping centres, including Sandton City. With environmental risks remaining at the forefront of global risks, Melinda leads the implementation of L2D’s various development initiatives in the company’s journey to deliver its Net Zero commitments. Some notable initiatives include the installation of 1 MW solar photovoltaic (PV) roof panels at Eastgate Shopping Centre and Liberty Midlands Mall, as well as the solar trees at Eastgate, which have been nominated for the Steel Awards. She is also leading theteam on the installation of an additional 4MW solar PV roof panel at Liberty Midlands Mall, which is due to be commissioned in April 2023. Melinda believes in the role that real estate plays in creating future environments for communities to thrive in, and she enjoys providing strategic direction that drives projects and processes more effectively, with a focus on delivering excellence. Melinda has also spearheaded and made significant contributions to various projects in property development, including the repositioning of Sandton City with the addition of the Southeast Extension and refurbishment of the mall, the reconfiguration of the Stuttafords space within the L2D portfolio, the mall reconfiguration and introduction of the Diamond Walk, the refurbishment of Mount Grace Hotel and Spa, and Rosebank Hotel among others. As a registered professional, Melinda is passionate about contributing to the industry as a mentor and has trained numerous other women, some of whom have also grown to various senior management roles in the industry. Seeing women grow and having contributed to their development is inspiring for her and she believes being a leader is about serving the people you lead, and giving back to the industry and the people you work with, which also allows you to grow.
I completed my undergraduate studies in 2015, the same year I started working as a graduate at MMQSMace. Currently I am an
intermediate candidate quantity surveyor on a journey to become a registered professional quantity surveyor. As an intermediate quantity surveyor, I am responsible for all cost consulting and managing duties throughout the various construction stages from project inception to completion. The lessons I have learnt so far in the industry is that although the construction process may seem monotonous in its operation, no project is the same as another, which prompts professionals, particularly quantity surveyors, to be more adaptable to changes in operation while still maintaining standards and not deviating in construction principles. Construction also needs a creative/open mind – most of the time you deal will paper/drawings and plans which you should be able to visualise, measure and bring to life. Furthermore, because construction is mostly collaborative work, there are attributes required to excel, which include interpersonal skills (ability to learn from your peers), leadership skills, communication skills and an ability to work in a team. Personal attributes may also include being an analytic thinker, being detail-oriented and pro-active. My experience over the past five years as a young professional, particularly a black woman in an industry previously dominated by men, is that there have been reasonable strides towards making the industry more inclusive of women. The government’s initiative to have local participation in every project procurement has been a step in the right direction in uplifting communities, as business owners – particularly female-owned businesses – are given an opportunity to provide services. It also gives local labourers an opportunity to develop skills, and students a chance to be involved in construction projects, which is beneficial to their curriculum. However, there is still a long way to go in the industry in terms of unconscious gender bias and the gender pay gap. What I enjoy most about construction is that every new project is a new adventure, and an opportunity to contribute to the development of a community. It is also a chance to build new relationships and grow with new professionals and clients.