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A closer look at the women in building surveying

Written by: RICS Recruit
Published on: 21 Mar 2024

young woman on a laptopDespite progress, women remain underrepresented in surveying, with building surveying reporting one of the lowest rates of female participation rates. Amidst these challenges, there is a growing demand for building surveyors, reflecting evolving industry trends and opportunities.

The Landscape of Women in Surveying

The surveying industry has historically been male-dominated. Over the past five decades, the proportion of female members of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors has only increased from 1% to 18%, according to RICS's first Women in Surveying insight report. This disparity underscores the persistent challenges faced by women in the built environment sector, including discrimination, pay inequity, and limited career development opportunities.

Catherine Thompson, Associate Building Surveyor at Cushman & Wakefield, reflects on her journey, "When I attended University in the mid-1990s, I was one of three female building surveyors in the year group. I am pleased to say that I am now seeing an increase in females in the profession. Females make up a third of our Building Surveying team in Birmingham and it’s great to have such a good mix of people.”

Trends and Job Demand

Despite the gender imbalance, building surveying continues to experience sustained demand. As the construction industry evolves, the role of building surveyors becomes increasingly vital in ensuring the sustainability and longevity of work throughout the world.

"Building Surveying provides a good mix of challenging but rewarding work that incorporates many different skill sets. Building Surveying is also a good career choice for job security. Buildings always need looking after, whether the economy is booming or in a recession!" Catherine adds.

Challenges and Opportunities

Women in building surveying have confronted both systemic barriers and individual challenges throughout their careers. Factors such as gender bias, inequitable pay practices, and limited career advancement opportunities have contributed to the career gap between men and women in the profession.

Despite these challenges, the women we spoke to emphasise the fulfilling aspects of their work. They enjoy being on their feet, engaging with clients, and tackling practical tasks, which are integral parts of building surveying. Highlighting the importance of encouraging young women to value this career choice without feeling pressured to conform to traditional pathways is essential.

Anaïs Carson-Mee, Building Surveyor at Cushman & Wakefield, underscores the multifaceted nature of building surveying, stating, "Building surveying constitutes so many other aspects of the more traditional career pathways, you’re not just looking at buildings. There are challenging legal elements such as reviewing lease agreements; dilapidations advice; asset strategy advice; and building contract arrangements/disagreements, whilst also including all the mathematical/technical, design and management elements. As a woman in building surveying, you are very much appreciated and recognised which encourages confidence!"

Empowering Women in Building Surveying

Despite the obstacles, women in building surveying are driving change and shaping the future of the profession. Their resilience, determination, and passion for their work are inspiring the next generation of female surveyors.

Eilidh Littlejohn Stojsavljević, Associate Building Surveyor at Cushman & Wakefield, emphasises, "I was lucky that I found out about Building Surveying early and chose to pursue it as a career. We must do more to promote it in schools and universities as an exciting and inclusive profession. As a young female looking to choose a career, Building Surveying may be seen to be male-dominated and based purely on construction sites and it’s crucial to dispel this misconception. The clue is in the title where buildings already exist and are occupied, needing our help to keep them sustainable and fit for the future. I love what I do and want to encourage more women to pursue careers in Building Surveying."

By advocating for greater representation, challenging stereotypes, and supporting one another, women of all ages in building surveying are breaking barriers and paving the way for a diverse and inclusive industry. Jules Hynes, Senior Building Surveyor at Cushman & Wakefield adds, “Deciding to go back to university to retrain to become a chartered building surveyor is by far and away the best career decision I have ever made and I only wish I had been more aware of this as a career option from a younger age. I believe there is a real opportunity to bring a broader range of people into the industry by making people aware of the profession at school and college age.”

Through mentorship programs, networking opportunities, and advocacy efforts, women are creating pathways for success and empowering future generations of building surveyors.

As the demand for building surveyors continues to rise, it's essential to harness the talents and perspectives of women in the field. By addressing systemic barriers, promoting gender equity, and creating a supportive environment, we can ensure that women play a central role in shaping the future of building surveying. Together, we can build a more inclusive and vibrant profession that reflects the diversity of our society and meets the challenges of tomorrow.