On Women’s Day 2022, we celebrate our members and this organisation which started almost two years ago on 3 September 2020.
WiST has gone from strength to strength, and its continued growth and success reflects the huge need that existed for an initiative like this, to enable women in property to grow, share and learn from each other. WiST’s membership has grown to 1 270 women in the property sector. Since our launch, WiST has hosted 23 educational and networking events that have been commended by the women and men who attended them.
Women in Sectional Title (WiST) was founded to promote gender balance in the South African property industry by connecting, supporting and developing women involved in the growing and dynamic sectional title sector.
WiST is making a positive difference in the lives and careers of women in property. However, there is still a long way to go, and WiST cannot do it alone.
WiST members state that the top concerns of women in the property sector include the lack of self-development programmes for leaders in sectional title. We need interventions to address the ongoing issue of women lacking confidence in their own ideas and not being assertive enough. Women in the industry also have lower expectations and are willing to accept less, which is not where we want to be in 2022.
There are challenges around life and work balance and flexibility in the workplace to assist women. The sectional title sector needs to do more when it comes to offering flexibility to support mothers. One good thing about the pandemic is that meetings became virtual, allowing female portfolio managers to conduct their meetings from home. In my view this should continue. Working remotely has, by all accounts, worked incredibly well, ensuring less staff turnover, alleviating stress, cutting down on petrol costs and long hours away from home.
We are still not seeing equal pay for equal work and support for women is lacking.
In my experience, most sectional title managers are women. They are highly skilled, organised and great at their jobs, but they need more support, including for women starting their own management companies.
I would like to see South Africa’s property sector take a leaf out of Australia’s book. The Workplace Gender Equality Agency of the Australian Government says that: “Attracting and retaining diverse talent is crucial to future-proofing the workplace and the broader economy. Making workplaces more flexible and responsive to the needs of employees is a key way of doing this.”
I think that South African business owners have an obligation to give everyone an equal chance in the workplace. It’s good business.
To this end, in my capacity as a director of BBM Law and founder of WiST, I was proud and honoured to have recently had the opportunity to offer training and support to an inspiring group of body corporate chairladies and owners of sectional title units in the Johannesburg inner city. I ran a six-week basic training course on sectional title for 16 black women who attended training sessions every weekend. They reported that they gained invaluable knowledge and insights into their responsibilities as sectional title trustees and their rights as owners. The next part of this undertaking will be linking these women with managing agencies who can offer them internships, to further advance their experience and careers.
The Property Professionals Act 22 of 2019 was the catalyst for practical steps to be taken to bring previously disadvantaged women into the industry. However, we have not seen enough action. The time to pay lip service to theoretical legislation is over and it is time to act and make a real, meaningful impact to the gender and racial transformation of South Africa’s property industry.
Author: Marina Constas, Founder of Women in Sectional Title (WiST)