WIRE (Women in Real Estate), draws membership mainly from female architects, realtors, engineers, quantity surveyors, urban planners and women in construction management. WIRE founders say the organisation is a platform for members to network, get mentored, learn and grow as well as share opportunities and resources.
Some critics have since dismissed it as just another feminist body with no defined agenda. Others have pointed out that there is no need for such a body as there already exist enough organisations - such as the Architectural Association of Kenya (AAK), Kenya Property Developers Association (KPDA), Institution of Surveyors of Kenya (ISK) - for real estate players. Most WIRE members are part of these bodies.
“WIRE is a body of women in the Kenyan built environment and land use sector who come together to encourage one another to stand out in a male-dominated field and patriarchal society. As the mothers of the country, we are interested in more than monetary gains from the built environment.
We want our children and our children’s children to live in a Kenya that is properly planned, developed and sustainable,” says Robyn Emerson, one of the founding members and the chair of WIRE-Kenya.
She says the efforts of WIRE will be witnessed through increased number of women entrepreneurs, corporate managers and executives, public decision-makers, financiers, developers, contractors and other significant roles in the industry and country at large.
Emerson says WIRE will mentor young professionals and university students studying disciplines architecture, urban planning, land economics, real estate, project management and finance.
Emerson says the interests of women in the industry are not properly being taken care of in “unisex” professional bodies. She says WIRE is modelled on Safaricom Women in Technology (WIT). Through WIT mentorship, Precious Blood Riruta, a Nairobi-based secondary girls school, emerged second best in a global contest that recognises schoolgirls’ technological innovations.
“WIRE can achieve that - and a lot more,” says Emerson. “As a WIRE member, one will benefit from business referrals, award nominations and celebrations, first-hand industry information, job or skilled hands referrals, attendance and information about women-centred sector empowering events.”
WIRE also intends to financially assist women professionals in the built environment by linking them up with with financial institutions and with women’s personal development groups.
“We are talking with various banks and women financial institutions to see how our members can get loans and other financial assistance. “
WIRE has also partnered with organisations like GROOTS International Kenya, an organisation working with grassroots women, to help grassroots women be visible in development and decision-making forums. We are working closely with women in energy sector, the likes of Charity Wanjiku of Strauss Energy and others, to encourage our members about innovation as we strive towards ensuring access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and efficient energy for all,” she says. Esther Mwaura-Muiru, the director of GROOTS International Kenya, says WIRE members have an obligation to fight for women’s rights: “We will work with WIRE members to make them pro-active in land matters and inheritance.
A WIRE member should push for women inheritance of land as stipulated in the Constitution, fight for the rights of disinherited women and help them in developing their parcels of land.”
Emerson, the founding chair of WIRE-Kenya, has over six years experience in the real estate sector in Kenya.
The professional urban planner is the former CEO of Kenya Property Developers Association (KPDA) and the regional director of RE/MAX Kenya. She is also the founder of Legacy Realty, a real estate firm and a mentor at Kibera School for Girls.
She says there are many challenges facing women in the industry: “The biggest grievance I have as a woman in real estate is “mansplaining” where by men feel the need to explain real estate-related issues that I have equally been trained in as if I do not understand them...”
Irungu Houghton, the associate director at Society for International Development, says WIRE is a great initiative. “Women in real estate have an obligation to help in creating more friendly and habitable urban cities as well as clean, safe and dignified homes and neighbourhoods.”