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Interview with Sandi Mbuthuma - 25 August 2016

Sandi Mbutuma, vice-chairperson of the Women’s Property Network, is working with the Joburg Property Company to connect and empower the network of women in the property sector and those looking to join the industry.

The Women’s Property Network has more than 400 members. The network exists in three regions in South Africa, including KwaZulu-Natal, the Western Cape and Gauteng.

Says Mbutuma: “This platform exists to empower women in property and assist networking among women in the property sector. We aim to create opportunities for women to advance their careers.”

The property industry, Mbutuma explains, is traditionally considered a “boys’ club”. Through the Women’s Property Network women can explore opportunities with women colleagues, foster new partnerships and build on existing ones.

Mbutuma says two engines drive the network.

The first drives actual networking by hosting events showcasing leaders in the sector. “These are women who are making strides and pushing boundaries in the property industry,” says Mbutuma.

The events are regional and have taken place in KwaZulu-Natal and the Western Cape so far. The Gauteng event took place on 25 August.

At each of the events, one woman is nominated to represent her region as a finalist at the network’s national event, which will be held in October, where an overall winner will be announced.

Joburg Property Company CEO Helen Botes is one of the three finalists.

The events also serve to showcase the skills of women in the industry, thus further opening doors to possible collaborations and partnerships.

Aside from facilitating networking, the events are also used to raise money to fund the second engine, which drives education. All proceeds raised during the events are used to fund an education trust.

“This trust has been set up to facilitate fundraising efforts to give bursaries to young women wanting to break into the property industry but cannot afford to,” says Mbutuma. She adds that more than R500 000 has been raised through the events. “To date, 24 bursaries [have been given] to deserving young women studying property-related degrees,” she says proudly.

“This will help to develop future industry leaders and players in the property industry, escalating it to new heights.”

In a heart-warming story of how the Women’s Property Network is changing lives, Mbutuma shares details of a recently received email from a fourth-year student completing her BSC honours in quantity surveying at the University of Cape Town.

“We know how expensive tertiary education can be. This young girl reached out to us because she had received a notice from UCT regarding her unpaid fees.”

Mbutuma says she passed the request on to the network trustees, calling an urgent meeting with them. They studied her academic results and verified the information with UCT.

“Her results were not satisfactory, they were excellent. Because of the education trust in place, this young lady has received funding from us to complete her studies.”

“We believe the Women’s Property Network is the engine to help those who are previously disadvantaged, and close the gap in the market by aiding women going forward in this industry.”