Closing the gap

Liberty Two Degrees is an organisation that firmly believes diversity is its strength

When reviewing any list of top CEOs across the globe, a lack of diversity is revealed. Yet across the world, women are making strides and assuming leadership positions in every sphere of life, including the property sector. Amelia Beattie is one such female leader.

Beattie has been the chief executive of Liberty Two Degrees (L2D) since listing the company as a trust REIT in December 2016. In 2018, she led the reconstitution of L2D to a corporate REIT to align the company to investor preferences, effectively positioning the business for sustainable growth. Among many other roles in the property sector, Beattie served as the chief operating officer at Old Mutual Property and, after that, went on to establish the STANLIB Direct Property Investment business before taking on the chief executive role at L2D. Today, L2D is co-owner of SA’s most iconic shopping centres, namely Sandton City, Nelson Mandela Square, Eastgate Shopping Centre, Melrose Arch and Liberty Midlands Mall, among others across the country focused on creating experiential spaces to benefit generations.

Beattie’s experience spans more than 22 years in the property sector, understanding that the industry makes a considerable contribution to GDP, positioning it as a catalyst for economic growth and transformation. ‘Our efforts to improve our labour conditions, give back to our communities, promote diversity and inclusion within our teams, and take a stand on environmentally sustainable policies have strengthened our brand,’ says Beattie.

L2D is making a great effort in contributing towards closing the gaps that exist in the property sector, responding relatively well to transformation and the key elements that drive good transformation in the areas of management control, employment equity and skills development.

One of the key challenges being addressed is the lack of entrepreneurship and business skills, which affect predominantly black-owned entities that struggle to take their businesses from survivalist or micro-level to sustainability. To aid in addressing this challenge, L2D has partnered with women-led SMEs to propel their businesses forward and achieve sustainability and profitability. Thirty percent of procurement spend at L2D is on black-women-owned businesses.

‘An organisation’s diversity is its strength,’ says Beattie. ‘As L2D, we continue to support gender diversity and inclusiveness within our business. Celebrating the achievements of women is important to us, with the hope that this will encourage increased representation of women across different sectors, while closing the gender-disparity gap.’

L2D was recognised by the Standard Bank Top Women Awards as one of SA’s top gender-empowered companies. ‘Leadership has the responsibility to drive positive outcomes, and so L2D keeps its eye on gender diversity and inclusivity as well as transformation, while stimulating South Africa’s economic recovery,’ says Beattie. ‘We are particularly proud of the uptake in women’s growth and learning initiatives at L2D.’

Beattie was president of the South African Property Association (SAPOA) from 2014 to 2015. She is also a former chair of the Women’s Property Network (WPN) and served as a trustee for the education trusts of SAPOA and WPN until 2018. Recently, she was appointed to the SA REIT executive committee and serves as the chair of the research panel. She is also the founding member of the Wits University industry advisory board of the School of Construction Economics and Management. As a women leader, Amelia was among the initial 50 women CEOs to be identified and selected as part of’s Definitive List of Women CEOs leading corporate Africa.

Amelia Beattie, CEO Liberty Two Degrees

L2D has one of the largest exposures in the retail property sector in SA, and a quality portfolio anchored by iconic, trendsetting and industry-leading super-regional centres. It has various leadership-development initiatives in place to enhance capability and deal with areas of improvement. These include coaching, workshops, online courses and receiving ongoing feedback. Five women in senior leadership committed to the Women’s Property Network Board Masterclass series, which L2D also sponsors. Three women attended UCT’s Developing Women in Leadership programme, and four attended the Strategic Leadership for Women programme at the Gordon Institute of Business Science.

The company today represents Beattie’s vision – it is a Level 2 BEE contributor, with 67% of its people being women. Diversity and inclusion are instilled at the highest level, with the board adopting a diversity policy that provides targets for the promotion of diversity. This shows its commitment to encourage diversity across all levels of the organisation.

‘We support the principles reflected in the Employment Equity Act and are committed to creating a diverse and equitable workplace,’ says Beattie.

In 2021, diversity specialists Mandate Molefi conducted a series of workshops, focus groups and follow-up sessions to explore the topics of inclusion and unconscious bias. L2D’s inclusivity, diversity and employment equity forum meets quarterly, and has completed an inclusivity and diversity workshop with L2D’s leadership team and people in 2021.

‘Emotional intelligence in leadership is a key element to ensuring a successful workforce and fostering a safe environment where employees feel comfortable to suggest ideas and to voice their concerns,’ adds Beattie.

‘Ensuring a cohesive collaboration of efforts across the organisation is a skill that any leader needs to have. Fresh and adaptive thinking, agility and flexibility are vital for future leaders.’

‘For L2D, value is inherently tied to our purpose of continuing to create experiential spaces to benefit future generations. This benefit goes beyond the in-the-moment experience we wish to create,’ according to Beattie. ‘We want to produce lasting impressions tied to an enduring legacy of positive impact – the good we do.

‘Positively, we have seen improvement in key operational indicators when compared to 2019. The portfolio is making good progress year to date on many of its strategic initiatives, and diversity, inclusion and empowerment continue to be critical focus areas.’

Beattie adds that L2D puts its people at the heart of the business. The core focus of L2D’s people strategy is on encouraging inspired, passionate and empowered people through its people practices. These align individual performance outcomes to the overall business strategy, and reward and recognise performance. ‘Our succession philosophy is about preparing L2D to be future fit, understanding the key capabilities that enable strategy both now and for the future, and gearing the workforce to meet short- and long-term objectives.

‘L2D’s approach focuses on the strategic management of talent attraction, acquisition, and development with career opportunities for all,’ says Beattie. ‘Our succession plan is aligned with our intention to implement our transformation strategy, grow talent internally, create an exceptional people experience and consider the retention of critical people and skills. It mitigates our succession risk and is instrumental in achieving our strategy and business objectives.’

L2D remains committed to encouraging diversity through all levels of its business. The organisation supports the principles reflected in the Employment Equity Act and is devoted to creating a diverse and equitable workplace.

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