“This was another incredibly productive WPN meet-and-greet for the KwaZulu-Natal chapter that has further strengthened the mutually beneficial relationship that exists between WPN and our generous hosts, Tongaat Hulett Developments,” said WPN Chairperson, Sandi Mbutuma. “We will continue to work hand-in-hand to promote women working in the commercial property sector by providing the necessary platform for information exchange and the development of business contacts.”
Since its inception in 2000, WPN has grown to include more than 400 members countrywide with chapters established in KwaZulu-Natal, Gauteng, and the Eastern and Western Capes. Through networking events, such as these, WPN is able to fulfill its mandate of advancing the success of women in a male-dominated industry, acting as a catalyst for change.
The organisation also offers a number of educational programmes promoting economic self-sufficiency as well as skills’ training development, which is achieved through ongoing workshops and programmes. The WPN Educational Trust – a key focus for the organisation – was established for the awarding of bursaries to previously disadvantaged female students studying towards a property related degree or diploma. Since 2008, just under 70 bursaries have been awarded, , 13 of which were awarded in 2017. totaling in excess of R800 000.
Lending its support to this dynamic organisation, Tongaat Hulett Developments hosted another well-attended networking event at its offices. Karen Petersen – Tongaat Hulett Development Director and 2016 winner of the Professional of the Year for the Corporate/Private Sector for the regional SA Women in Property Awards – gave an inspirational talk on her career path while offering useful insights into achieving success in the property realm.
The daughter of a builder, Petersen always dreamed of working in the construction industry and, through incredibly long hours and free time dedicated to earning pocket money, Petersen graduated with a degree in Architecture as well as a Masters in City and Regional Planning from UCT. Working her way up from her first job at a local town planning agency, Petersen eventually established her own company – even earning her private pilot’s license (PPL) in 2003, which allowed her to travel into Africa – but, by 2006, she wanted to become part of an organisation again.
She joined Moreland – as Tongaat Hulett Developments was then known – as a project manager, and has grown within the company, and with an MBA, now heads up the strategy and business insights portfolio in her role as Development Director, as well as becoming the first female board member.
“If you want to learn lots and quickly, Tongaat Hulett Developments is the perfect school. But I walked the stairs to the upper floors and didn’t take the lift,” explained Petersen. “One of the key lessons I learnt early was that that hard work, tenacity and perseverance definitely pays off. The old adage of what you put in, is what you get out, has never been truer.”
Outlining her five key tips for women entering or working in the commercial property sector, Petersen advised the audience to never say no to extra work beyond the job description; to be armed with additional knowledge and skills by attending extra courses; to not underestimate the power of professional registration with the relevant industry body or council; to accept that it will take time and that dues will need to be paid; and finally, to embrace the role of a being a professional woman in this industry.
“In an industry, characterised by uncertainty, lots of complexity and ambiguity, the ability to be flexible, adaptable and resilient is critical. But these are skills you can learn, and they will all help you in the long run,” explained Petersen who concluded that ‘it’s not men, but the women who are the real architects of society’.