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JPC CEO Helen Botes speaks at the Top Women Conference 2016

Joburg Property Company (JPC) CEO Helen Botes says the world can no longer afford gender inequality and “in a quest to effect real change, the property sector and the construction sector has to be transformed”.

Botes, who strongly believes in transformation and empowering women, was addressing delegates at the Top Women Conference held at Emperor’s Palace on Wednesday, 17 August.

Speaking to the audience of prominent business and government leaders driving gender empowerment in South Africa, Botes said, “My aim today is to address you about leveraging public sector property to accelerate the development and transformation of women. We’re in a critical time, a time where we need to talk.”

 

With 30 000 parcels of land covering 77 000 ha in its portfolio, the JPC is a custodian of local government land. The historic value of its portfolio is R8,7-billion with a market value of about R34-billion.

With this in mind, Botes said that in order for development and transformation to make sense it has to be considered in the broader context of issues confronting women and girl children.

Botes referred to the vision of the United Nations Women initiative, Planet 50/50 by 2030: Step it up for Gender Equality that aims to fast track gender equality by asking governments to make national commitments to address the challenges hindering and oppressing women and girls’ progress and development. She said that time was running out on meeting the deadline but that change wasn’t coming fast enough. I have no intention to struggle around the issue of gender equality, it is something that must be done, said Botes.

Botes said the statistics show that, across the racial divide, the representation of women in the corporate and business sectors are dismal. She admitted that the kind of transformation that is needed did seem like a daunting challenge, and offered the delegates some inspiration in the form of a Spanish proverb: “To tell a woman everything she may not do, is in fact to tell her what she can do.

These are words Botes lives by and she’s been a driving force behind the JPC’s transformation plans. She assured the delegates that the company had objectives in place to grow and support women in the property sector. “By 2019 there will be significant progress in gender transformation, with JPC as a catalyst of this,” said Botes.

Botes highlighted the historical significance of land and the role it has played in women’s oppression, adding that the land question in South Africa could not be gainsaid as owning land and property has always been at the heart of economic empowerment.

“For decades in this country, [legislation] prevented women from owning land. Not too long ago, women were regarded as “minors” and could not own land. To free women from economic oppression therefore, the land question needs urgent addressing and resolving,” Botes said. “Without land and property, economic empowerment and financial independence will remain a pipedream.”

She added that changes in procurement processes would leverage the empowerment of women.

According to Botes, the JPC aims to “live and breathe” transformation and economic empowerment as part of normal business. She identified the four pillars to women empowerment as asset management, property management, property development and facilities management. Adding, “providing opportunities in property to women is one of the pillars that will enable us to empower women in South Africa”.

Botes said that one of the JPC’s responses to these call-for-actions is that 50% of the company’s new-build would be allocated to women. “We want to expose young women to the property industry; education is key at JPC,” she said.

She found the fact that only three women operate in the outdoor advertising industry and own a small percentage of billboards, ludicrous, adding that of the JPC’s entire outdoor advertising portfolio, 50% would be allocated to women along the whole value chain of outdoor.

Among various other responses from JPC, Botes said, “Fifty percent of professional services will be allocated to women – thereby increasing the volume of women in the professional services. We make extensive use of town planner, quantity services, space planning, interior design.”

The JPC will also be supporting women in the informal economy by ensuring that the space allocated to them for trading purposes is clean and well-maintained.

Botes reiterated that all the JPC’s programmes would show visible and measurable actions.

“We want to ensure change and empowerment of women and girls. Promise, potential and progress, that is what we believe in at JPC.”