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Platform for women in sectional title goes from strength to strength

MAIN IMAGE: Marina Constas, WiST Founder

Staff Writer

During Women’s Month we focused on a few female industry role players who is making a major impact on the sector and will still play an important part in the development of the industry in future.

A platform that supported the role of female property practitioners over the past two years, Women in Sectional Title (WiST), launched almost two years ago to promote gender balance in South Africa’s property industry, and reflects the huge need that existed for an initiative like this, according to WiST founder Marina Constas.

“WiST was founded to enable women in property to grow, share and learn from each other. As South Africa celebrated Women’s Month, I am proud to reflect on how WiST has gone from strength to strength. Our membership has grown to 1 270 women in the property sector. Since our launch in September 2020, WiST has hosted 23 educational and networking events that have been commended by the women and men who attended them,” said specialist sectional title attorney and BBM Law director Constas.

“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,” Constas stresses.

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.

“The sectional title sector needs to do more when it comes to offering flexibility to support mothers. Positives delivered by the pandemic were more remote working and virtual meetings, 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,” Constas contends.

She notes that 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 keyway of doing this’.

“I think that South African business owners have an obligation to give everyone an equal chance in the workplace. It is good business.”

To this end, Constas recently offered training and support to a 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,” she reports. “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.”

To mark Women’s Day on 9 August, Constas also took the trainees to visit the Community Schemes Ombud Service (CSOS), where they met the Chief Ombud and had the opportunity to gain a greater understanding of CSOS’s role and how the service operates.

“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,” Constas concludes.

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