SA’s property sector remains a male-dominated industry but, for well-qualified and hardworking women, a career in property is very rewarding.
Equites Property Fund CFO, Laila Razack, says that, often, it’s not that women are not capable, but when women don’t see people like themselves in terms of gender and race in leading positions, they don’t aspire to being in those positions.
“Under-representation remains a challenge in the sector and a barrier to women entering the space. It’s important for us to create a space which is more representative,” says Razack.
In an industry where women are under-represented, over 50% of staff at Equites are women, with the finance and marketing departments being female-led.
She says women are technically competent, resilient, strong and empathetic. A diversified team of proficient women at Equites means softer issues are identified that male counterparts often miss.
“Role models are important in the property sector, and we want to make the best investments and progress in paving the way for new entrants into the sector,” says Razack.
Akua Koranteng, executive head of Gauteng, with 18 years of experience in the financial and property sectors, believes female representation has improved significantly.
“Increasingly, women are panellists or lead discussions at conferences. They speak at various industry-related events from a point of valuable industry experience and knowledge,” says Koranteng.
Zantĕlli Krueger, portfolio executive for Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal, with a career background in operations management, says reinvention of oneself every five years is key in determining where one wants to end up.
“Reinvention requires determination, enthusiasm and grit – all of which present opportunities, says Krueger. “The right attitude, asking the right questions and tapping into new opportunities are key in moving from being an administrator, for example, to operations manager,” says Krueger.
A career in operations management is not a 9-to-5 job, and requires flexibility to move from the boardroom to building sites [in her case]. New entrants often find that theoretical knowledge is important but on-the-job training can get you far.
Importance of education
Krueger’s qualifications include project and property development management, international risk and hazard management, clinical psychology and a Bachelor of Arts.
Like many young people, she didn’t grow up thinking of managing industrial buildings, let alone working in real estate. Early life and work experiences led her to Broll Property Group where she started as a property administrator in 2014. She subsequently became a senior operations manager before joining Equites in January 2020.
Razack says education is a key driver in maximising employee growth and personal development.
“Skills and training development, as well as learning on the job, are important in enabling employees, and particularly women, to rise through the ranks.”
Razack, a chartered accountant with a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Cape Town (UCT), did not plan on being in property.
Before joining Equites in 2015 as financial manager, she started her career as a lecturer at UCT and was then employed by PricewaterhouseCoopers.
Razak was appointed executive in the group finance division about a year after starting at Equites and before landing the CFO position in 2020.
The support she had and being confident in her ability and knowledge of the job was all she needed to overcome any self-doubt and the initial hurdles of being in a leadership position.
“Sometimes the limitations are self-imposed and it’s time women stood up and took advantage of opportunities to further their career growth,” says Razack.
For Koranteng, consistently delivering on good work [especially in real estate], staying ahead of the curve, networking and aligning herself with likeminded people has resulted in her success in a predominantly male-dominated industry.
Her career started as an analyst at Merrill Lynch. She then moved to RMB as a property finance analyst and transactor, with positions on various boards of listed property companies. She continues to make a significant contribution to the sector.
Koranteng, who studied at UCT and abroad, says education is a catalyst and driver of everything. Realising the need for, and lack of quality education in some communities, she co-founded 100ABC in 2010, a non-governmental organisation focusing on raising funds for children’s education, primarily girls.
“The demanding nature of roles in my early career enabled me to build life and career skills that have got me to where I am today,” says Koranteng.
She believes mentoring is key in accelerating career growth, particularly for new entrants into the property sector and the workplace in general.
Overall, Krueger says Equites has built a culture of nurturing and mentorship that has resulted in not only a diverse organisation, but one where women thrive and relentlessly pursue opportunities to enhance their personal and career growth.