News Research

There isn’t a shortage of female talent in SA’s listed property sector just a slow progression to directorship levels

Following the inaugural State of Gender Diversity Report launched in 2021 by the Women’s Property Network (WPN), the organisation has this year reviewed the status quo of the meaningful and sustainable economic participation by women in the real estate sector.

The purpose and scope of the 2021 report was to present the statistics in relation to historic female representation at board level within the South African listed sector, to track the overall progress (or lack thereof) to gender diversity at this level, to interrogate the reasons behind the progress, or non-progress, for the period 2013 to 2020, and to consider the various interventions which could be implemented to better the representation of women at board level.

A significant intervention by the WPN following the report was the introduction of the Real Estate Board Masterclass Series in conjunction with Business Engage. 

Key objectives of the programme for the first cohort included accelerating board readiness for those with potential to join senior leadership or board roles, creating a pipeline or pool of leaders ready to take on senior leader / board roles and to provide critical experiences that allow potential board candidates to acquire capability prior to being appointed onto a board.

A year hence, and the second State of Gender Diversity report has been issued by the WPN in conjunction with stakeholders, Property Sector Charter Council, Anchor Stockbrokers and contributions by industry role players. The key elements of focus of the report are an updated view of women representation on REITs mainstream boards within the South African context, as well as an expanded view into the senior management segment. 

The second report shines a bigger spotlight on the topic as it relates to female representation in executive and non-executive positions. The result being that property companies do not have a shortage of female talent on an overall entity-wide basis, but rather a much slower progression of females to directorship levels.

At a webinar hosted by the WPN on the 6th of October 2022, Nonhlanhla Mayisela, WPN Chairperson Ex Officio and Co-Founder and Manging Partner Ukukhula Property highlighted the need to understand the challenges hindering the representation of women at senior level and in executive roles, but at the same time to be forward looking. 

Pranita Daya, WPN Research Portfolio and Real Estate Analyst, Institutional Equity Research, SBG Securities commented on the little progression over the period under review but drew attention to the profiles and comments of women at senior women in the industry contained in the report and despite the obstacles, their messages of inspiration.

Bold and courageous leadership is required in the property industry – at board, executive and business levels. I ask all leaders in the industry, wherever you are, to be part of a ‘one woman at a time’ challenge, where we focus on uplifting, promoting, supporting and championing one woman at a time, whether you have already done it or not. This will contribute immensely to a step change in the right direction for the industry, but it calls on all of us to participate collectively as an industry.” – Amelia Beattie, CEO of Liberty Two Degrees.

In order to improve the gender matrix, it has to be a collaborative industry effort, and only then can significant programmes be implemented.” – Michael Arbuthnot, CEO, Catalyst Fund Managers.

Show me the intention, and I’ll show you the results. Assets are not appropriately managed and there is a lack of innovation to promoting female participation. In addition, where women are appointed the issue of retention also becomes key.  Women need to be given a sense of worth, and this is not necessarily financially motivated.  If there are women in leadership roles, the sense of “belonging” is enhanced for other women.” – Annmaree Tippoo, Portfolio Manager, Ninety One.

In the research that Kolosa Madikizela – PrCM, PrCPM, PMP, PhD Candidate has undertaken, it is proven that diversity impacts leadership and that whilst there is not a lack of women adequately equipped to take up senior roles of leadership, the culture to encourage their participation is non-existent. There is full agreement on the diversity agenda by the broader property industry, but leadership has acknowledged that they are ill equipped to address the issue. Therefore transformation needs to be adopted as KPI’s within company strategy and owned by the Executive.