* This article first appeared in the latest Property360 digital magazine
Nothile Mkhize is a shining example of a woman who has taken her passion, pushed through countless challenges, and is making a name for herself in the world of property.
She grew up in rural KwaZulu-Natal, and attended high school in Ulundi, where she discovered a love of geography and technical drawing.
This led her to move to Durban to study town and regional planning. She is still pursuing her career in the city.
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This has been her journey thus far:
What have been some of the challenges you have had to overcome in order to be where you are now? My biggest challenge was getting a job after completing my studies. With the shortage of jobs in the country, I opted to start my own company. I also started the company to assist other young professionals with internship skills to start their careers.
Starting a business from scratch can be very challenging and risky and having to build a reputation for yourself in a male-dominated industry takes hard work. Over the course of building the company, I have faced and overcome many obstacles such as finding suitable team members and securing jobs.
What other obstacles do you witness other women in the sector, facing? And what is your advice to them? As much as there has been some progress towards overcoming the under-representation of women in the built environment sector, there is still an imbalance.
This leads to most women being discouraged from pursuing a career within the construction and property sectors. In the 21st century, there is also still a pay gap between men and women in the industry. Although it is highly unjust, many women take these jobs because they need the money to support their families. We need a lot more women in the sector to redress this cycle of negative behaviours and reasoning.
What aspects/characteristics do you believe women can bring to the property sector that will benefit it? Women have proven that they can join together to make a difference when faced with significant challenges, which can be an advantage to the upliftment of the industry.
What are your thoughts/ inspirations/concerns about the role of women in the property sector? What do you think should be done to both elevate women in these roles and capitalise on all they can offer? While many industries have been working for decades to increase their workplace diversity, the construction/built environment world has been remarkably slow to follow their lead.
An increasing number of women are now entering this traditionally male-dominated environment, although the numbers are still insignificant when compared with men. Equipping women with built environment-related skills, as well as giving them confidence to improve their development, ensures women engage in self-build housing projects. This not only ensures women have adequate shelter but that they earn an income from these skills.
The pandemic has thrown a spotlight on work-life balance, not only for women who often have responsibilities to families and within the home, but for men too. But as a woman, knowing what you – and other women – may be juggling both personally and professionally, what is your advice for work-life balance for women? The Covid-19 pandemic is harming health, social and economic wellbeing worldwide, with women at the centre. Many working women who experienced negative shifts in their daily routine say they’re unable to balance their work and life commitments, which may result in their physical and mental life being disturbed.
What advice can you share to inspire or encourage other women? As a woman in a vastly male-dominated industry, I feel that women need to stop waiting for the doors to be opened for them. We must push through for ourselves. We need to create opportunities for our kids and the generations after.