Picture: Vuyiswa Mutshekwane, CEO South African Institute of Black Property Practitioners (SAIBPP)
For Vuyiswa Mutshekwane’s her work as CEO of the South African Institute of Black Property Practitioners gives her the opportunity to contribute in some small way towards building a more inclusive, just and equitable South Africa – and this gets her leaping out of bed every morning.
The property sector is still often accused of being dominated by mostly white male leadership. However, the rise and success of property doyens like Pam Golding and Aida Geffen have shown that women can make their mark in this competitive industry. These days more and more women from all races are seen to take on the challenge of leadership and making a positive difference in this sector.
August is National Women’s Month. In honour of this, Property Professional will feature an interview with one of these extraordinary women every week of this month. This week’s interview is with Vuyiswa Mutshekwane. This young entrepreneur at heart began her journey in the property sector only five years ago with her appointment as CEO of the country’s most influential black property organisation, the South African Institute of Black Property Practitioners (SAIBPP).
A chance meeting at the right time
“It was a ‘chance meeting of minds’ and a case of perfect timing,” says Vuyiswa. The 34-year old with an BCom degree in Politics, Philosophy and Economics had already made her mark in the fashion retail industry where she ended up as head of sales and marketing for African fashion brand KISUA. After 10 years in the industry she was on a sabbatical while looking for an opportunity to “do more” to contribute directly to the country’s development journey. During a chance meeting with a SAIBPP board member she found that the SAIBPP’s mission really resonated with her. The meeting led to an invitation for an interview and the rest is history.
“I had never heard of the organisation at the time and knew nothing much about the sector, but I was really interested in what the organisation stood for and it was exactly the kind of challenge I was looking for at the time.”
Over time, what was initially a small spark of interest has since evolved into a full-blown obsession with the industry. “I believe wholeheartedly in the property sector and I am committed to seeing the industry thrive and grow.”
Her passion and commitment to making a positive contribution towards a more inclusive and transformed property sector has not gone unnoticed. She was nominated as a 2019 Standard Bank Top Women in Property finalist. Vuyiswa also serves as a non-executive director on the board of Fortress Reit where she chairs the Social and Ethics Committee and is a member of the council and technical committee of the Property Sector Charter Council and of the Land Reform & Food Security Committee at the Black Business Council. She also chairs the new representative body for the broader property sector, the National Property Practitioners Council (NPPC).
For Vuyiswa the highlights of her tenure at the SAIBPP have been to create opportunities for young people to enter the property industry. This includes launching the SAIBPP university chapters on four universities for students studying property-related courses, and then in February this year, the Young Professionals Forum. The latter consists of student members from the chapters as well as property entrepreneurs and professionals. The organisation’s bursary program was also expanded and through it young people were given work opportunities with property companies. “It’s really ignited my hope in the future generation and the future of this country!”
Vuyiswa Mutshekwane address a meeting of the Young Professionals Forum
The challenges of leadership
As the SAIBPP’s new CEO and also in her new role as chairperson of the NPPC, Vuyiswa has to hold her own among some strong, mostly male, personalities. She acknowledges that this has been challenging at times as men and women tend to approach business and work differently but adds that she has received a lot of encouragement and support from her male colleagues in the industry. “Most (not all) of the people I consider my mentors (unbeknown to them) are male. I appreciate the different perspectives.”
She makes it a habit to surround herself with people who are more knowledgeable, ask ‘stupid questions’ and to volunteer to do things where she might be slightly out of her depth. “I’ve found that is the best way to learn.”
Vuyiswa believes if we see more women in corporate leadership positions then more others will be inspired to reach for those heights. “There is a saying that ‘you can’t be what you can’t see’. If we want to move the needle it has to start somewhere and it’s going to take a concerted effort by ALL, especially those currently in positions of power and influence, to be more intentional about mentoring and sponsoring women and about hiring women in senior positions.”
3 tips of advice
Build relationships: Building relationships matters more than “networking” – work on cultivating strong and meaningful relationships in the industry. Also note, it’s not about how many people you know, it’s about how many know you – so seek out opportunities to “make yourself known” by joining professional associations and volunteering or joining the committees etc.. It’s a great way to meet others and expand your influence.
Be yourself: Authenticity always wins and is the easiest way to gain people’s trust and confidence. Also, it’s the one thing that no one can be better at than you.
Be brave: Confidence is a muscle that needs to be exercised daily. Make it a habit to consistently go out of your comfort zone; try new things, talk to people who intimidate you, read things you don’t understand, and use your failures as an opportunity to learn and grow (document them too as it might make good reading one day)!
Asked for her favourite motivational quote, Vuyiswa says she has a few but one that has really resonated with her as a perfectionist, is: “Don’t let perfection stand in the way of progress”.
“Ultimately, what propels me is my deep passion for this country and this continent and my desire to be a part of building a more inclusive, just and equitable society – the work that I get to do within this sector has given me an opportunity to make a difference in some small way and that’s really what gets me leaping out of bed every morning.”