As we celebrate Women’s Month, we embark on a journey to explore and honour the dynamic and diverse roles that women are playing in shaping the landscape of real estate.

We asked them a few questions:

Nombasa Mawela, licensee for Seeff Dubai and Dawn Bloch, real estate agent with Lew Geffen Sotheby’s International Realty in Cape Town’s Southern Suburbs, share their journey into the real estate sector, what inspired them to pursue a career in the field, and what it takes to achieve success.

Nombasa Mawela, licensee for Seeff Dubai

Following on from a successful business career with Blue Chip entities in SA, Nombasa moved to Dubai a few years ago and has worked her way up the property ladder. She now represents top developers and properties across the City-state.

Nombasa holds a BSc, MSc and MBA qualifications and is currently pursuing a DBA (Swiss Business School) in Dubai. In 2022, she was also listed among the Top Women in Dubai, a publication that celebrated women making strides in different fields across the city. She is also a member of the board of SABCO (South African Business Council), UAE.

How did you get started in the property industry, and what inspired you to pursue a career in this field?

I worked in the construction industry for many years and the finished product became my fascination and interest. That led to studying a real estate postgraduate degree and that is where the real love and understanding began.

What advice would you give to other women aspiring to build a successful career in the property sector?

First, believe in yourself and your abilities. Confidence is a powerful asset in navigating challenges and opportunities. Second, prioritise continuous education about the property market, industry trends, and regulations to make informed decisions.

Third, build a strong network by attending industry events, connecting with mentors, and seeking support from like-minded individuals. Embracing challenges and persisting through setbacks is crucial for growth and advancement.

Develop essential skills such as negotiation, communication, and problem-solving to thrive in the industry. Leveraging technology and data-driven insights can give you a competitive edge. Upholding high ethical standards in all dealings builds trust and credibility.

What initiatives or changes would you like to see implemented in the property industry to create a more diverse and inclusive environment?

Providing equal access to mentorship and training opportunities for underrepresented groups to bridge the skills gap.

Also more experience and value exchange platforms geared towards collaborative work between experienced and new talent. This will create sustainable knowledge value systems in the business.

In your experience, what unique skills or perspectives do women bring to the property industry? 

Women often exhibit exceptional communication and interpersonal skills, fostering better relationships with clients, tenants, and stakeholders. Their empathetic approach can lead to improved customer satisfaction and loyalty.

Women tend to demonstrate strong organisational abilities and attention to detail, which are crucial in managing complex property transactions and ensuring smooth operations. Their focus on efficiency can lead to streamlined processes and cost-effective solutions.

How did I get started in the property industry and what inspired me to pursue a career in this field?

I originally pursued a career in the retail industry and my passion was creating and marketing children’s clothing – in particular character merchandise – for a high-end retail chain in Cape Town. But when I moved to Johannesburg in the 90’s, my passion for property was sparked, starting with the process of selecting a suburb in which to live, designing and building my first home in an estate and being actively involved in the landscaping as well. One of my hobbies at the time was also interior design.

I returned to Cape Town after 10 years and was ready for a new career challenge and I decided that the real estate industry was the natural progression of my passion for property.

I joined Lew Geffen Sothebys International Realty in 2007, as an Area Specialist for Zwaanswyk, an upmarket suburb of exclusive properties which attracts those who favour an equestrian and outdoor lifestyle. In 2016 I expanded the scope of my work to include neighbouring Lakeside and Kirstenhof.

What advice would I give to other women aspiring to build a successful career in the property sector?

Firstly, it is important to have a clear goal for yourself. Create a strong foundation through training as an intern alongside an experienced property professional who will guide you through the process and in achieving your NQF 4 qualification.

Access free online resources to further your studies and attend as many training sessions as possible to invest in your professional future.

A strong, supportive and compassionate mentor is essential to your success. You must love the idea of immersing yourself in the field. It helps to have good communication skills. Remember to play to your strengths by embracing your individuality!

What initiatives or changes would I like to see implemented in the property industry to create a more diverse and inclusive environment?

A January 2020 Deliotte report revealed that diversity and inclusivity is good for business. And that diverse and inclusive companies will be more likely to innovate, change and exceed financial targets.

Understanding the diversity of the market and building a culture of inclusion embraces new ideas. There is no doubt that our industry will serve customers better and become more socially responsible by creating a more diverse workplace.

The success factor of any diversity and inclusivity programme is to view transformation beyond compliance. It will certainly promote a potential source of competitive advantage.

An important, unresolved aspect that has affected diversity and inclusivity in the property industry has been the general lack of basic salary and benefits. Income is commission based.

In my experience, what unique skills or perspectives do women bring to the property industry?

In my experience, women do well at achieving a work/life balance due to having to juggle work and family commitments on a regular basis. Women are empathetic, nurturing and the backbone of families and communities. They also play a significant role in community building and often take on leadership roles in their communities.

Women generally excel at communication, collaboration, planning and problem-solving, which are all essential in the property industry. The ability to be focused and “think on your feet” is also necessary, as different scenarios constantly present themselves during negotiations, client interactions, plus liaison with colleagues and competitors.

Real Estate, like retail is a “today business”, with change a constant factor, which women in the property industry are best positioned to address.