As part of the 12th Abuja Housing Show, the Women in Housing Sector initiative (WISHI) was launched. The initiative is to serve as a platform both for mentorship and networking for professional women in real estate, and for home management and ownership training for marginalized women (widows, divorcees etc.) in our society.
Several dignitaries and power house personalities in the sector, both men and women, participated in the launch that introduced two flagship programs – “Empowering women, empowering our future” and “Housing women, housing our future”. In support of the Empowering women, the key note speaker Mallam Ibrahim Aliyu, the Chariman Board of Directors Urban Shelter gave a powerful speech concerning women professionals in the real estate sector. It just makes business sense was the theme of his speech. Mallam Aliyu spoke about women who had played a pivotal role in his life and his business, from his maternal grandmother who raised him – a very successful business woman in her own right who participated in trade across all regions in Nigeria (Kano, Irobo, Ibadan) to Accra, to his most able daughter Mrs Saadiya Aliu Aminu who now serves as the Urban Shelter MD/CEO. Women have the innate ability to match their male peers in the housing sector thanks to their key strengths including budgeting, multitasking, negotiation and client relationship management. The best Project Manager he had personally worked with at Urban Shelter was a woman..
Malam Aliyu also quoted studies by both McKinsey and Morgan Stanley in support of why having women in businesses enhances results. The Morgan Stanley report stated that “more gender diversity particularly in the corporate setting can translate to increased productivity, better decision-making, higher employment retention and satisfaction”. Mckinsey’s study took this argument a step further with a statistic that stated “companies with at least a quarter representation of women on their board make an average of 20% higher earnings than the industry average” – this is significant!
Echoing Malam Aliyu’s sentiment were the female and supportive male industry leaders who took part in the panel sessions including Mrs Tokunbo Martins a Director at the CBN, Yemi Shonubi, MD/CEO of Savant, Uzo Oshogwe, MD of Afriland, Isoken Omo, Executive Chairman of the Edo Development and Property Agency (EDPA), Mrs. Mercy Lortyer, The First female president of the NIESV, Adeniyi Akinlusi, CEO of TrustBond Mortgage Bank and Kola Balogun CEO Mixta, amongst others.
Running their own statistics, Urban Shelter noted an increased drive in female entrepreneurial activities through the sales of their commercial/retail units – 40% were bought by women. Unfortunately, whereas professional women were increasing their activities in the sector, this was not the case for women with less purchasing power. For affordable residential units, only 10% were acquired by women.
These results from Urban Shelter give credence to the 2nd flagship program of the WISHI –Housing Women, housing our future. The program is targeted towards marginalized women who do not have access to housing finance instruments, nor understand the fundamentals of facility management to assure capital appreciation for their houses. In the Nigerian society still, women and their children stand to lose their homes in the event of a divorce or adverse family circumstances such as the death of a spouse. These women and their children are the ones most at risk of turning to crime or becoming negative contributors to society argued Nike Osilaja the founder and Chairman of WISHI.
Homeownership can become a solution for both housing and financial empowerment/stability for these women and their children. Training, education as well as financial support are key requirements for these women.
WISHI’s goal is to go beyond the current “gifting” plans being put in place by the government and organizations such as Dangote Foundation. Many of these women have never managed the affairs of the housing structure and hence stand to lose their homes or their home values due to poor maintenance. WISHI is working with the mortgage banks, Mixta, Urban Shelter and other select organizations to establish “Operation earn your own home”. Based on the premise that if you pay you value/retain, the aim of the program is not to “gift” these affordable homes to the women, but instead have them “earn” their homes through a credit system which will be a series of homeownership training courses. WISHI will provide housing pre-education classes on savings programs for down-payments and to improve mortgage credit worthiness. Other training courses will include housing facility management to assure capital appreciation, entrepreneurial education on how to utilize the home for business opportunities and other financial tools. Through the credit system, these women will work towards homeownership and in the process gain the training and education they need to maintain their home and potential increase the capital values of their investment.
The Women in Housing Initiative is a worth-while cause for women in the real estate sector. Its multi-faceted programs will not only strengthen the network of professional women in the industry ensuring that their voices are heard, but by utilizing this combined knowledge and reach, they will in turn empower marginalized women by giving them training and access to homeownership. The initiative will overtime, help ensure that women are no longer invisible in the housing sector.
Chinwe Ajene-Sagna is an expert in the real estate industry with over 20 years of experience, including strategic advisory, asset/portfolio management and transactional services primarily with JLL (Fortune 500, S&P listed). She has a Harvard MBA, Dartmouth BA (H. Honors) and is an MRICS (chartered surveyor).