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This year, the theme for International Women’s Day (8th March 2023) is “DigitALL: Innovation and technology for gender equality”. Join us in the leadup as we celebrate innovative women working in proptech to create an industry free of bias, stereotypes, and discrimination.

In this interview, we’ll be discussing the topic with Alet Drijfhout, Customer Success Manager at Property Inspect.

What does International Women’s Day mean to you?

Every year, International Women’s Day evokes in me a sense of gratitude for the women who fought for women’s rights and equality in general. Secondly, and more importantly, it serves as a reminder of what we can achieve when we unite!

In South Africa where I am based, Women’s Day is celebrated on the 9th of August to commemorate over 20,000 South African women from all backgrounds and races who protested the proposed amendments to the “pass laws”, the despised symbols of apartheid, in 1956.

What are the challenges facing women in proptech today?

Women are different from men, this we know. We have an infradian rhythm, one of the two bodily timekeepers that we’re reminded of on a monthly basis. We know we’re different from men in that sense and I believe that as women, it isn’t that we want to be set apart as better. We would much rather celebrate these differences, while given equal opportunities, with a level playing field and equal resources.

International Women's Day 2023 quote alet dirjfhout

Can you share a story about a woman who has inspired you?

Frida Kahlo is a source of endless inspiration for me. Not only because she defied the boundaries of emotional and health challenges to meet her own personal aspirations, but because she was bold enough to show up and vulnerable enough to speak up and be seen in her art.

What progress have you seen in gender equality in your industry over the past year?

When it comes to progress in the industry, I feel that as the years go by more and more women are being included in the conversation. They are given a platform to share their knowledge and wisdom and they are being called on as subject matter experts in their fields.

How can we ensure women are included in proptech conversations?

If we want to include women in proptech conversations, we must first employ women in proptech. Also, leaders must be committed to our development within the industry through training, continuous development and mentorships. Listen to what we have to say because we, just like anyone else, will come up with plenty of good ideas and a few great solutions.

How can others advance gender equality and be better allies to women?

This may sound a little counterintuitive, but hear me out. Not everyone is passionate about equality, and that’s fine. Find something you’re passionate about and commit to making a difference where you are with the resources available to you.

The UN’s Sustainable Development Goals contain 17 goals to transform our world. These are all interconnected and interdependent. For example, by ending poverty another girl has the ability to focus on getting an education and entering the workforce.

By making cities safer, women can commute to work in a carefree manner and focus their efforts freely without fear for their safety. A better and more sustainable future for all.

If you are vaguely interested in gender equality, educate yourself on the matter. HeForShe is a great place to start! According to UN Women, it will take nearly 300 years to close the gender gap worldwide. If not for your female colleagues, be the change for your wife, mom, daughters or sisters.

How can we encourage more women to pursue careers in male-dominated fields in the industry?

Barbie ran a beautiful campaign in October 2015, called Imagine The Possibilities. Even as a working adult, I found it inspiring! I believe we all need to work together to inspire and showcase the possibilities for women in male-dominated fields.

I think it starts at home, with how we raise our children. Girls need to be loved and respected from a young age, in order for them to grow into women who will set boundaries that prescribe how they are treated in every work and personal relationship. With this kind of nurturing, they will grow into women of character that work for what they want in life.

As a mother of three boys, I am committed to raising sons that treat all people with respect, celebrating our differences without making distinctions in terms of which characteristics are better.

The fact that schools are focusing on coding and robotics is equally important in raising awareness and showcasing the possibilities. In the short term, I believe, by employing women in proptech and developing them internally, we’ll give them the room needed to thrive.

international women's day 2023 quote alet dirjfhout

What policies/initiatives promote women’s empowerment and gender equality?

There are a few that I think are quite important for promoting women’s empowerment and gender equality. First, remote working opportunities where possible. Second, focus on unbiased hiring practices and skill-based promotions to ensure and retain female talent. And the third is a commitment to ongoing human resource development and training.

What message do you have for young women starting their careers in proptech?

Be fearless in the pursuit of your heart. Know, you can have it all – a career, family, a thriving business. Perhaps not everything all at once, but you can achieve absolutely everything you set your heart on if you’re prepared to work for it. Perhaps even more importantly, as women, I believe we need to celebrate each other’s success and support one another through every phase of the journey.

What steps can we take on International Women’s Day and beyond to support women and advance gender equality?

I think what we’re doing, by celebrating the women within our organisations and giving us an opportunity to air our views, we’re joining the global conversation, and that’s an important step.

Share your story using #IWD23 and #EmbraceEquity on social media.

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