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News & opinion

6 MAR. 2019

Mary Ann Reynolds FRICS: a 360 degree career with RICS

Mary Ann Reynolds FRICS has been heavily involved in the work of RICS for most of her career. Having been a very active member for over 30 years she is now employed as the County Manager for RICS in Switzerland and has been nominated for our Pride in the Profession campaign for her contribution to surveying.

What inspired you to become a surveyor?

I first became interested in buildings with my father’s commitment to rescuing historic buildings that no one else wanted to save. As a result, I grew up in building sites and was fascinated by the whole process. The first advice we had about the RICS qualification and a career in surveying was not very encouraging as not many women were involved in the profession in the 1970s. But I went against all advice and set my sights on it.

Tell us something about your early career

I completed an RICS accredited degree at the University of Reading in 1986 and started working for Savills. My first ever job was supporting my boss, Anthony Panes, doing the negotiations to purchase the right to lay an oil pipeline across the New Forest in the UK. Savills were part of the team, which included environmentalists, lawyers and lots of other advisors and BP only employed the best. I remember going up to London to meet the Barrister BP had employed who was one of the most famous planning Barristers at the time. It was all very scary and also quite thrilling as my first ever experience of work.

Not many women were involved in the profession in the 1970s. But I went against all advice and set my sights on the RICS qualification.

Mary Ann Reynolds FRICS
Country Manager, RICS in Switzerland

An international move

After 16 years with Savills, finishing as Head of Training, I moved to Switzerland – not for career advancement, but to get married. Not initially being able to work and with time on my hands, I got involved in setting up RICS in Switzerland. 17 years later, I’m still here and we have grown enormously in numbers and in influence within the market. I also worked as Chairman of CESB and as a Licensed Assessor Trainer. In my career outside RICS, I teach English for Real Estate in Switzerland and Germany. 

The profession has changed a lot since 1970s, what could make a difference for a successful career today?

At least now, it isn’t likely that a middle-aged man will openly say “women are no good at the job”; comments I experienced quite a lot at the start of my career. However, they may still think it – even if they now know they can’t say it. All we can do is counter such attitudes by proving how good we are. I don’t believe in positive discrimination and would have hated to feel I had been given a job because I was a woman. However, we can encourage more women to be interested in this career by showing role models. Having had two female RICS Presidents has really helped.

What can employers do to retain women?

We can help retain more women by encouraging working patterns that don’t require always being present in a fixed location and for fixed hours. Many women have family commitments and their caring role will increasingly be for their parents as much as for their children. These changing work patterns are happening anyway and I think this will be hugely important for women in the profession. I’m also seeing a lot more men working part-time and being open about the importance of being with their children. I think this is great role-modelling to their workaholic colleagues. 

Why is diversity and inclusion important?

Living in a part of Switzerland that only gave women the vote in the 1970s and only after being forced to do so, I am very aware of the inequalities there have been and still are in society. However, ignoring, patronising or excluding approximately half of the population just doesn’t make sense. It is talent wasted.