With a dynamic list of speakers and a room filled with commercial property industry change-makers, the Women’s Property Network (WPN) Leadership conference recently delivered meaningful insights into female leadership in South Africa.
This half-day annual leadership conference is aimed at promoting the role of women in the real estate sector. Having taken place on 13 March 2020 at Standard Bank in Rosebank, Johannesburg; the proceedings were opened by Nonhlanhla Mayisela, WPN National Chairperson and Dharmesh Kalyan, Head of Real Estate at Standard Bank Group.
“In supporting the WPN Leadership Conference, Standard Bank South Africa confirms its support for women’s empowerment. Among other key initiatives we support is HeForShe, which is run by the United Nations. HeForShe invites men and women to stand in solidarity for gender equality,” said Kalyan.
Award-winning broadcast journalist Cathy Mohlahlana was the MC for the conference. She noted that “this conference is about celebrating you and the fact that women are better and stronger together.”
Kirsten Leeuw, Founder and MD of Dcoded, was one of the featured speakers who shared insights into the constantly changing world we live in. She spoke about how we have the ability to step up as leaders not only to survive but thrive, amid the uncertainty. She emphasised that while change is a constant by default, excellence can be a constant by design. We must strive to make excellence a habit.
“Things have never been this uncertain, unpredictable or vulnerable. Can we change this? No we can’t. Can we learn to operate in this space? Yes, we can. Vulnerability, though uncomfortable, is a birthplace,” said Leeuw.
Portia Tau-Sekati, CEO of Property Sector Charter Council, unpacked detailed statistics and research to give us a clearer view of what the numbers reveal about female leadership in business both in South Africa and across the globe.
"Women business owners rely on informal sources of finance. We need to unlock, where feasible, accessibility to finance for property ownership and property development," said Tau-Sekati.
Among the highlights were also a panel discussion on effective leadership in the face of diversity. The panel was led by Khanyi Chaba, Head of Responsible Business and Stakeholder Relations at Old Mutual Emerging Markets and Craig Toontas, COO of Honsha Properties. The discussion touched on the fact that great leaders need to help employees and organisations turn adversity into opportunity. While the sector is delivering positive improvements, there is a need for greater coordination by women within and across other sectors; as well as more openness and willingness to promote women in the sector.
Inspiring women to dream about the world we wished to see, Dr Puleng Makhoalibe, Head of Henley ICE, urged attendees to respect and honour their imaginations and tap into their creativity in order to make our hopes for the future a reality. Dr Puleng dived into the possibilities of 4IR and how we have an opportunity to utilise our creativity and imagination to unlock the potential of this advancing technology.
Finally, the keynote speaker, Koko Khumalo, the CEO and founder of Motlanalo Chartered
Accountants & Auditors Inc, spoke about the characteristics of an exemplary leader,
emphasising the vital importance of good governance, ethical conduct and diligence in
“The underlying theme of the conference, ‘commitment to excellence’, was skillfully woven throughout the topics of discussion. A key takeaway was the theme of resilience at the heart of the definition of excellence, especially in the current market environment. Discussions around collaborative thinking and power in the collective (across individuals, businesses and sectors) provided food for thought regarding potential opportunities to explore across the fastest urbanising continent in the world.” said Catherine Hendry, Real Estate Finance (East Africa) at Standard Bank Group.
“The speakers were diverse in their approach, with unique presentation styles that kept the audience attentive and interested to see what would be said next. The conference gave the audience and speakers the space to discuss and debate important topics, encouraging hope and resilience amidst turbulent times,” said Thuli Mpuntshe, WPN Gauteng Regional Chair.