Trailblazers

Trailblazers

MAIN IMAGE: Marina Constas, director BBM; Andrea Tucker, director MortgageMe; Johette Smuts and Chantelle Nieuwendyk, PayProp Services

Women are progressively taking the lead in various sectors related to the real estate industry.

Women have come a long way since the days when career options were mostly limited to nursing, teaching, becoming a secretary or a social worker. They since hold forth as prime ministers, specialists in any academic field and CEOs of top companies. The property industry is often seen as more traditional and slower to transform but this is also slowly changing.

In honour of Women’s Month we look at leading women in specialist fields connected to the real estate industry.

Marina Constas – Specialist attorney in community scheme law

Years ago author and attorney Marina Constas saw a gap for a legal specialist in the community scheme industry while she articled as a candidate attorney. She has since made a name for herself as a specialist attorney in community scheme law. She obtained a Fellowship from the Association of Arbitrators and completed the London School of Mediation course to qualify as an international mediator. After the Community Ombud Service came into being, she served on their board for two years. She is also a director at BBM law firm.

Over the years she has also co-authored three editions of the best seller ‘Demystifying Sectional Title’ and have appeared on numerous television shows on the Home Channel, including ‘Ask the Property Experts’ and ‘The Property Show’. On 3 September she will be launching a new online platform – Women in Sectional Title – an online platform to support and develop women in the sectional title property sector.

Lessons learned

Be assertive – Those in positions of power may refuse to insist on change. Women should be asserting themselves to ensure that they make enough noise to agitate for change, confronting recalcitrant organisations.

Be in 100% – Find out everything you can about your field. Attend seminars and stay abreast with the latest developments. Work hard.

“I have learned that it takes hundreds of hours to get good at something. Competition is essential – it keeps you sharp and focused. Confidence and practised ease comes with time – there are no shortcuts. And it goes without saying that women must support each other in these endeavours.”

Andrea Tucker – director MortgageMe

Andrea Tucker started her career in banking and management consulting and became involved in the property industry “by accident” when she moved over to software company e4 to head up their business applications division (R&D). Last year the company launched the consumer platform MortgageMe that aims to simplify the home loan application process for consumers by taking it online. “I love the fact that we’re at the forefront of bringing technology into an industry that can see and experience the immediate benefit of digitalising processes and experiences. And this technology can benefit all the stakeholders in the property value chain, from consumers to estate agents,” she says.

Tucker says the property sector is making progress in addressing the obvious gender imbalance but one way to speed this up is to identify and address any gender pay gaps. “And if nothing else, these pandemic times will favour a more flexible approach to work that will benefit women who naturally take on more of the invisible (parenting) load than male counterparts.”

Lessons learned

Speak up – Women need to confidently add their voices, strengths, skills and knowledge

Embrace being a woman – “As a woman in the tech industry (not all that dissimilar to the property industry) I advise women to embrace what makes us different. Competing with male leaders doesn’t mean that we need to become like one of them.”

One of her role models is New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern who set the global standard in the fight against the worldwide pandemic. Ardern says about being a working mom “I am not the first woman to multitask. I am not the first woman to work and have a baby – there are many women who have done this before.”

Johette Smuts and Chantelle Nieuwendyk – PayProp

As author of the oft quoted PayProp Rental Index Johette Smuts is the well-known ‘voice’ of the rental market. She is the head of data and analytics at leading property management company PayProp. Her colleague, Chantelle Niewendyk, is the head of client services. Chantelle began her career at a franchised real estate group where she did everything from administration to rental property agent and sales agent.

Commenting on why leadership in all industries is still very male dominated, Johette says one of the reasons is that women are still often seen as less capable “which couldn’t be further from the truth”. “Another is that women are often punished by society for having personality traits that are necessary for good leadership, for example women are called bossy, men are assertive. Women are called emotional, men are compassionate. The list goes on,” she adds.

Women’s Month creates a chance to celebrate but also reflect on why certain groups of people don’t enjoy the same privileges as others. “It ignites conversations surrounding sensitive topics to bring action and change so that everyone can have equal opportunities. In our industry, the Property Sector Transformation Charter Code, or Property Charter, aims to do exactly that – it sets out a framework to achieve economic transformation in the property sector,” says Johette.

Both agree that any woman entering the property sector shouldn’t be under any illusions – this is a tough industry. However, it is also one of the most rewarding and fulfilling industries. “It will no doubt push you out of your comfort zone every day, but with passion and enthusiasm, you’re bound to get far,” says Chantelle.

Johette ends with a quote from the legendary Ruth Bader Ginsburg (serving as associate justice of the Supreme Court in the US since 1993): “Fight for the things that you care about, but do it in a way that will lead others to join you.”

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