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Dorah Modise: A call for women to transform the property sector

July 30, 2019

GBCSA’s CEO Dorah Modise, as a black female leader in the built environment sector, epitomises the success of barriers overcome, both racial and gender. She is quick to acknowledge the phenomenal women who have conquered these gigantic hurdles in the past, paving the way for women like herself to achieve in their careers. This is notwithstanding her own personal commitment and dedication as a specialist with over 17 years’ experience in the sustainability field.

The road to empowerment
In frank conversation, however, Modise shares that there is still a road ahead for women to be empowered and transform the sector. She is calling for a more conscious move to include women as decision makers. “Discrimination is an enemy of progress and can never yield positive results. If we don’t have a balanced approach to finding a solution then we are bound to fail. Climate change affects us all. It’s not just our environment but also our economy, our society, our communities. It can’t be left to half of the people to make decisions, it needs to be all of the people,” she says.

Modise was on maternity leave when offered the opportunity to head up the GBCSA. She had the zeal and the determination, but with a small baby in tow, she knew it would not be easy. “There has been progress but I feel like women start on a deficit. There’s a lot of work to do even before you do your job. You are working harder just to prove yourself.”

Prior to joining the GBCSA, Modise served as a strategic executive director for city sustainability at the City of Tshwane where she was responsible for developing and implementing the Green City programme – and ensuring that the city became the greenest, most sustainable city in Africa.

Up until December 2012, she was a chief policy advisor for sustainable development within the South African Government Department of Environmental Affairs. Modise holds an MBA from the University of Pretoria’s Gordon Institute for Business Science (GIBS); a Master of Arts Degree in Environment and Development from the University of Sussex; a Postgraduate Diploma in Environmental Diplomacy from the University of Geneva; and a National Diploma and B-Tech Degree in Environmental Health from the Tshwane University of Technology.

Creating an inclusive business culture
“There is still an old boys club when it comes to networking and I haven’t really managed to overcome that. I just have to do my best and be truthful to who I am. I can’t do a business deal over a round of golf or over drinks so I have to find my own ways of networking. The business code needs to change; we need to break boundaries and create a business culture that is inclusive.”

Interestingly, more than half of the CEOs running established Green Building Councils around the world are female. This is evidence that women are indeed forging their own way forward, establishing a new culture one step at a time, and ultimately, leading the global drive towards sustainability.

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