One need only Google the CEO’s of the top forty listed companies on the JSE to discover the disparity that continues to exist between men and women in business. With the name of only one female CEO appearing on that list, the struggle for equal representation in positions of power is very much ongoing.
One industry that continues to do well in this struggle is the real estate industry. “In this industry, women are a force to be reckoned with. Here, they are free to make a powerful impact without having to be pitted against their male counterparts. In fact, 59% of our network are women. Woman also account for 61% of our top 500 commission earners,” says Amanda Cuba, Director and COO of RE/MAX of Southern Africa.
Cuba herself is an example of a woman who holds a position of power within the RE/MAX network. As the ex-CEO of the diversified investment and management consultancy group ZCAPITAL, Cuba joined RE/MAX as a BEE partner at the end of 2014 and assumed the role of Chief Operating Officer for the Southern Africa region. Equipped with a BBusSc (Hons) from UCT behind her name, Cuba worked her way up from the humble streets of Gugulethu straight to the RE/MAX executive team.
“Someone once said: You never know if you are poor if everyone around you is poor too. This statement was true for me. When I was a toddler, I lived in a shack for four years with my grand-aunt in Duduza. As a widow, I watched as she built her house from scratch without any bond financing. From the age of three, we used to help around the house, fetching water at the local tap with a wheel barrow and selling sweets and chips (which we had to pack in small bags weekly) to earn some extra cash for the household. Later in life, I moved in with my Aunt Nomzamo who had grown the family business to ensure that we were exposed to a different and more affluent lifestyle,” Cuba explains.
As a twin to yet another incredibly successful woman in business, Cuba attributes her success to both the circumstances of her upbringing and the inspirational women who helped raise her: “Our mom gave us the belief that we can be anything that we wanted to be. She encouraged us to be adventure seekers and taught us that we are capable of anything that we put our minds to. It became a self-fulfilling prophecy. Also, having lived in many places – we attended eight schools by the time we finished high school – taught us to be self-sufficient and that change is a constant part of life that one has to embrace.”
Cuba provides the perfect example of how the right attitude can empower women to reach positions of power in business no matter their background or external circumstances. Cuba encourages young women to remain authentic to who they are in their pursuit of success as society continues to work at equalising the scales that remain slightly skewed in men’s favour.
“Research by Stats SA reveals that the wage gap has seen improvement over the 2010-2016 period, with women having been recorded as earning the same amount as men in the bottom 10% median monthly earnings in 2016. However, the wage gap still exists in other categories, with women earning R8 for every R10 a man earns within the top 5% of median monthly earnings category in 2016. Despite this disparity, I would encourage all working women to be true to who they are. It is easy for young women to change themselves to accommodate others and to get ahead in the workplace, but this will be at their peril. This does not mean that women ought to be arrogant but should rather follow their dreams and strive to pursue the things that move them closer to that achieving that dream daily,” Cuba concludes.