Ensuring meaningful and equitable representation in the property industry

05 Mar 2019

Nonhlanhla Mayisela, CEO of Izandla Property, on being a black woman leader in the male-dominated property industry.

Education

BComm Accounts (Unisa), Post Grad Diploma in Management (WITS)

Joined Investec

2003

Current position

Chief Executive of Izandla Property

Nonhlanha Mayisela joined Investec Property in 2003, and spent 12 years working on commercial and industrial developments. She is currently the Chief Executive of Izandla Property, a majority black-owned property company powered by Investec Property and the Investec Property Fund, which was established in 2017.
 
Nonhlanhla is also the national chair of the Women’s Property Network (WPN), an organisation that seeks to advance the equitable representation of women in the property industry.
 
 

As a member of the 2014 Archbishop Desmond Tutu Leadership Fellowship Programme (ALTP), what had the biggest impact on you?

 
The Archbishop Desmond Tutu Leadership Fellowship Programme opportunity taught me a lot about perspective - I learned how big the world is, and it made me think more broadly than simply in a South African context. It also created a level of discomfort for me: I was surrounded by learned and well-travelled young people, most with very firm convictions about life and what they wanted from it, and I didn’t necessarily feel the same way.
 
This challenged me to think of how else I could make an impact in the property industry and even my country. It forced me to question a few things about my life, my profession and purpose. That, in turn, led to a transition in my career.

 

What needs to be done to ensure more equitable representation in the property industry?

 
The property industry has come a long way in terms of gender diversity at different levels. There’s been good progress in entry-level positions across most disciplines, however, there’s still a major challenge in ensuring that these women get enough support to advance to and remain in senior positions in the sector.

As the national chair of the WPN, our mandate is to ensure active economic participation by women in different disciplines and segments of the property sector.
 
Nonhlanhla Mayisela
"Back yourself and surround yourself with anyone who believes in your story, male or female."

Nonhlanhla Mayisela, Chief Executive of Izandla Property

What advice would you give women wanting to follow a similar career path?

 
My first piece of advice would be ‘stay in your lane’, focus on your personal journey and growth path and don’t be too concerned about what others are doing. Women place tremendous pressure on themselves to outperform and this can derail their focus.
 
Be patient: both with yourself and your environment. It takes time to build technical knowledge, solid relationships and credibility.
 
Lastly, be prepared to take advantage of opportunities that will come your way. That means rolling up your sleeves and getting your hands dirty.
 
Unfortunately not much is expected from women, particularly black women in business. If you’ve got the right command of the English language and you’re relatively smart and educated, the perception is that you can’t do much else. Of course this is an unacceptable misconception, we don’t have to prove anything to anybody, just give your best, and that’s enough.
 
My first piece of advice would be ‘stay in your lane’, focus on your personal journey and growth path and don’t be too concerned about what others are doing.  

Have you had any mentors?

 
Sometimes we focus too much on female mentors and often they’re simply not there, or they may not have the capacity to mentor as they may be battling with the same challenges as you are. So, I would say you should focus on building relationships with people that believe in you and are willing to support you along your journey of growth, that could be a male or female.
 
Initially, my mentorship journey was predominantly with males, but that has evolved as I’ve matured, and as more senior women have become more integrated in the property industry.

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