In a sector where female representation is low, Equites Property Fund has upped the game on gender diversity and inclusivity.
For the financial period ending February 2022, women accounted for 50% [53% at the beginning of August], with the board of directors comprising 36% women.
Equites is looking to increase women representation at board level to above 40%, and through strategic hiring processes, the company intends increasing female composition in the 2023 financial year.
Strength through Diversity
As a listed company, Equites believes a diverse board comprising people with different skills, backgrounds, races and gender has added collective strength needed for decision-making ability. Such diversity also gives direction and supports management in its daily operations.
“When hiring talent, we always look for people with the right qualifications, and it so happens that a large percentage of our female talent at all levels comprises highly competent individuals,” says CEO, Andrea Taverna-Turisan.
He explains that attracting and retaining female talent (particularly) is an important aspect of the organisation that prides itself on its inclusivity.
Regardless of the position one is applying for at Equites, the Cape Town-based company prefers people who stay at least five years in any job.
“We have an Equites way which requires time for us to extract the full value from an individual while at the same time enabling those individuals to grow and progress.”
In addition, Equites values skills training and development on and off the job to enhance its employee capabilities. This is because many people enter the real estate sector without the relevant experience and will need to build on this, as well as understand the sector, and the various components of their specific roles within the organisation.
Women tend to shy away from pursuing careers in a male-dominated property industry because there is a general lack of awareness of the various job opportunities that exist within this sector.
During the 2022 financial year, Equites granted two employees bursaries to pursue three-year degrees, and four employees were granted funding to complete short-courses aimed at their personal career growth.
“We have intentionally created an enabling workplace for all our employees to thrive, hence our staff turnover is very low,” he says.
Talent and rigor that’s goes beyond gender
Taverna-Turisan says Laila Razack, the company’s CFO, is an example of why attracting and retaining talent is important, especially at executive and board levels.
Razack joined the company in 2015 as financial manager and, after just over a year, she was promoted to executive in group finance. When the CFO left, she was appointed interim CFO in January 2020 before being appointed the CFO in May 2020 at the age of 33.
He says Razack achieved the top position on merit and not on gender. She was asked if she wanted to apply for the position and went through a rigorous recruitment process before she emerged as a prime candidate for the position, with three other strong and experienced male candidates.
Taverna-Turisan says there were two factors to consider in appointing Razack. At an executive level, the company needed an individual who, firstly, understood the Equites culture and, secondly, could hit the ground running. Razack was 32 and lacked natural life wisdom, which comes with age and experience.
However, her progression within the company pointed to her understanding of the organisation and her capacity to deliver.
Broader than BEE
The issue of Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) forced the company to think out of the box. While Razack had performed well during her time with the company, questions were raised about her strength of character and capacity to stand up to the older CEO and other management and board executives.
“With the board recommendation, we felt it was a bit risky but, with enough guidance, we felt she was well-positioned to learn and grow in this position,” he says.
Taverna-Turisan says Equites wants to be the best possible corporate in South Africa and, given the high complexities in which the company operates, he is proud of the organisation’s high calibre of people, and its ability to retain great talent.