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News & opinion

7 MAR 2019

Celebrating International Women's Day 2019

This year, as part of International Women's Day, we've asked four inspirational women what this day means to them and how to pursue a successful career in surveying.

Dr Louise Brooke-Smith

Partner Arcadis LLP – UK Head of Development and Strategic Planning
First Women RICS Global President (2014-15)

What does International Women's Day mean to you?

A day to celebrate the fabulous achievements of women both now, and over the years, from across all walks of life and on an international level is a significant opportunity. It is one that both men and women can and clearly do support. As such it is an example of 'celebrating diversity' that has real impact.

It is an opportunity to highlight the work and successes of a spectrum of women, from the unsung heroes working under challenging circumstances all the way through to high impact, high profile women who have changed the world in a very visible way. And there is so much to celebrate!

The day seems to have expanded into a week with events held in most workplaces, schools and colleges. That speaks volumes in terms of the impact the event has and how important it has become. What better way of highlighting the 'diversity' conversation and all the issues that affect women, than by presenting role models and encouraging younger women to reach for the stars, whatever their chosen career or journey.

What advice would you give to anyone wanting to pursue a career in surveying?

The surveying world is so broad and diverse, there is something for everyone whether you want to build a skyscraper, plan a new city, design a bridge, manage a multi-million pound railway line, or advise on the value of Concord. The sector has changed in recent years from a stuffy, old fashioned, misogynistic old boys network, to a forward thinking industry leading the way in the best use of new technology, digital solutions, state of the art building methods to name just a few areas. As such it is helping set the agenda and vision for our communities to live, work and play in the best spaces over the coming years.

What changes within the profession would enable more women to progress?

There have been some amazing changes over the last ten years. There seems to have been a perfect storm of the right people, making the right noises and an industry that woke up to the challenges it faced, just in time.

In simple terms, the skills gap means that if the industry continues to recruit the same male, pale faces from the same places with the same backgrounds, then the sector will simply die. The value of a diverse workforce has been widely recognised and there is clear acknowledgement that things have to change and recruitment needs to be from a broader spectrum of the community – that properly reflects our markets. This has been a game changer.

But that's only the beginning of the story – once a broad cohort of enthused people have been attracted in to any workplace, those individuals need to be made welcome, supported and then retained as they progress. Being aware of unconscious bias and doing something about it is still vital to strive for as it clearly still exists. Similarly, the cultural changes that some companies need to make are proving tricky for some to grapple with. Those changes need to be shouted about from the top of any organisation – not left as a box ticking HR exercise or a policy initiative that remains on a dusty shelf.

Practical changes such as endorsing and encouraging parental leave, flexible working are really important and specific programmes to attract career breakers (new mums/dads and carers) back into the fold in an appropriate way for them, are more than important – they are vital. Gender pay gaps are still with us and using statistic is not a way of excusing things – the root cause needs to be tackled head on. Equal pay for equal experience and work – it's not hard, just fair!

So lots to still strive for – but we have seen huge changes, far quicker than ever before. Let's keep up the momentum!

Louise Brooke-Smith
Louise Brooke-Smith

Laura Collins

Associate at Rider Levett Bucknall
2018 RICS Matrics Young Surveyor of the Year

What does International Women's Day mean to you?

IWD is an opportunity for us all to celebrate how far we have come as an industry and to celebrate our male champions who have always believed in us when sometimes we didn't. There is always more we can do and it is great to see so many ongoing initiatives helping to achieve inclusivity for all.

When I first started in the industry 14 years ago, there were five women in a team of 90 at a previous company. I am pleased to reflect that these figures have dramatically improved. Additionally, there are so many more benefits in place to encourage equality including shared paternal leave, flexible working acceptance, social events for all, closing the gap on gender pay and more women in senior positions.

It is important to reflect on how much progress we have made and remain passionate on what's next.

What changes within the profession would enable more women to progress?

We need to do more to promote the wide range of roles in the industry at school level (how many teenagers know what a quantity surveyor is?) to address the gender imbalance in the talent pool. I sit on Rider Levett Bucknall's Equality, Diversity and Inclusion panel, which looks at ways to better promote the industry, it is not just about women. This group (like many others that exist across our industry) is working hard to diversify the workforce and break down misconceptions about the industry.

What changes do you foresee happening in the next 20 years in terms of gender balance/inclusion in the profession?

We need to celebrate the progress we are making and be careful that we are not positively discriminating.

The industry needs to promote work/life balance better. Not just women who are parents. We need to encourage everyone that it is ok to have a balance: men do not need to be in the office working 60-hour weeks! Equal partnership etc.

We need to be working collaboratively across the industry to break down barriers and open up fulfilling career paths in construction.

See our latest vacancies...

Laura Collins winner-YSOYA-RICS
Laura Collins

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Anna Keys MRICS

Associate at Calfordseaden LLP

What does International Women's Day mean to you?

International Women's Day is not just about celebrating achievements by Women it is about striving for balance as a whole. Its not about Women being better than Men, the song 'Anything you can do I can do better' springs to mind, it is a reflection on equality and raising awareness that anything you can do, I can do just as well. We must not forget the sacrifice so many women made to ensure we had a right to vote, had the right to go to university and had the right to 'do a man's job'. Our job is not done until we have removed the stigma completely and balance is met. Then we should of course absolutely keep celebrating all that we have achieved. We are lucky that in the UK we appear to make headway and women have a choice. It is interesting to see that the CEO list is predominately male still, 'Women just don't want the positions' or perhaps women have been ingrained to believe they are not worthy of such dizzy heights. International Women's Day helps to showcase success female role models which in turn helps us inspire the next generations and encourages young women to shoot for the stars.

What advice would you give to anyone wanting to pursue a career in surveying?

Ask any RICS surveyor what the best part of their job is, I would guess that all would say VARIETY. A career in surveying is super varied, in fact, there are over 200 different roles within several different pathways, you would most certainly find an avenue to suit you. The day to day activities change regularly too, of course you will have your standard tasks to fulfil but projects change, and clients change. It certainly doesn't get boring.

If you are interested in a career in surveying, research the different types of surveyors and find your best fit. Look which universities offer the qualifications you need and check the entry requirements. Find a mentor and get excited. You are about to start an exciting journey.

What changes do you foresee happening in the next 20 years in terms of gender balance/inclusion in the profession?

Things are already changing, I recently had the honour of speaking at a welcome to the profession event, which is a graduation ceremony for all newly qualified Surveyors. I was delighted to see so many Females, which even 10 years ago would have been much less. It was also pleasing to see the parents and family members in the room, many of which were also RICS surveyors, candidates were obviously surrounded by positive role models.

Statics still show a high majority of male RICS Chartered Surveyors, but as time goes by, and as surveyors retire, I am confident there will be a greater balance. The RICS promote to a wide inclusive audience in schools. The more school visits carried out the greater the exposure to young females and a higher likelihood of more choosing a career in surveying. We still need to work hard to break the barrier and I would encourage all to continue to promote the profession the best way you can.

Anna Keys
Anna Keys

Sara Cameron MRICS

Commercial Property Surveyor at Norfolk County Council

What does International Women's Day mean to you?

It is all about visibility.

International Women's Day 2018 really brought it home to me that I was missing a real network of advocates and allies. I needed to feel a sense of belonging and by simply being a member of a profession wasn't enough for me. Whilst I love the profession, the reality is that over 80% of RICS members aren't like me.

As a surveyor, that happens to be a woman, this means that I find myself working a little harder to find solidarity or kinship within the profession. I am working harder to be seen, heard and recognised.

We have seen a huge uplift in visible role models since Louise Brooke-Smith was President in 2014 and again with Amanda Clack's extended term as President in 2016/17. The visibility of both Louise and Amanda and their continued legacy and passion for the role of surveyors means that we are all lucky to belong to a professional body that fully embraces diversity and inclusivity across the board. It is inspirational and shapes not only my journey through the profession, it really does shape the world we live and work in.

The social media presence of surveyors last year on #IWD2018 created the #surveyingsisterhood movement on social media - it is now a widespread #tag across the profession that is increasing our visibility and allowing us to amplify the conversations and actions that are happening across the industry.

This year's International Women's Day campaign is about a balance for the better and building a gender balanced world: "Balance is not a women's issue, it's a business issue. The race is on for the gender-balanced boardroom, a gender-balanced government, gender-balanced media coverage, a gender-balance of employees, more gender-balance in wealth, gender-balanced sports coverage...Gender balance is essential for economies and communities to thrive"

The fact that the word sisterhood brings out the stereotypical misogyny from some shows that we still have work to do to create gender balance.

But here's the thing - we are in it for everyone. Gender balance is not a women's issue, it is about all of us. For me, IWD and the sisterhood is about being a sister to all. Creating balance for all regardless of who they are, where they come from, or where they are headed. Together we can act to make a positive change, bring a sense of kinship to everything we do.

We are in this together. Our profession binds us together. We are family.

What advice would you give to anyone wishing to excel in their career?

Never give up being you.

Careers are not straight-line paths, they are journeys. If you show commitment and do the right thing, every day for yourself and your clients, you will be recognised.

This isn't just about demonstrating integrity, it is about aligning what you do with who you are, your values, demonstrating this purpose allows you to be authentic. It means that you can see past extraneous details to focus on what matters. If your values are aligned to your organisation or clients, you will be on a path to success. Your consistency of commitment and focus on results will be sustainable, it's not all about glory hunting and rising quickly, it is about creating a meaningful career that is sustainable and satisfying.

What changes within the profession would enable more women to progress?

We all need to challenge our unconscious bias. We all have bias but if we all agree to check our thinking and recognise that talent comes in many forms and embrace the opportunity that looking outside our established 'norms' will help more of us to realise our potential in leadership roles.

Kristen Pressner, global HR executive at Roche, presented an inspiring TEDx talk introducing her self-check method to challenge the shortcuts we all make. She encourages the practice to mentally flip whomever or whatever you are talking about to test yourself. If we all agree to #FlipItToTestIt we can not only create more awareness around our unconscious biases, we can fuel more healthy conversations to enable more diverse talent to climb the ladder.

It is fantastic that RICS has established the inclusive employer mark. Even more so embedding diversity, inclusion and teamworking as well as inclusive environments into the mandatory competencies for our qualifications means that our student and trainee surveyors will be absolutely instrumental in challenging the bias of our existing workplace culture, with responsible leadership this 360 degree approach will speed up the development of truly inclusive workplace environments enabling not only more women to progress but it will create a greater sense of social mobility to support anyone that wants to climb the ladder.


Sara Cameron
Sara Cameron