Members of the RICS served as ambassadors for the profession at a recent Women of the Future event that brought together sixth form students and professional women from around the U.K. for an evening of learning, mentorship, and networking.
Following the event, we spoke with three of the ambassadors about their experiences as chartered surveyors and the advice they have for future professionals.
Alice Graham MRICS, Senior Quantity Surveyor, Faithful+Gould
Claire Fisher MRICS, Senior Surveyor, Knight Frank
Yvonne L. Ambo MRICS, Senior Transactions Manager, Legal & General Investment Management, Real Assets
What do you enjoy most about working in Surveying?
Alice: I enjoy the variety of projects and sectors you can work in – from private to public sector work, schools, labs, offices, roads, rail – there are so many options to pick from. I am very fortunate to have worked on different types of projects in the short time I have been in the industry.
Claire: I love the variety in the work that I do - no two sites that I look at are the same. I also like how tangible it is. My work influences the places that people live and it’s exciting to be able to see them develop.
Yvonne: The variety that comes with the role, as no day is the same. Working on investment transactions for an institutional fund involves looking at assets across different sectors, ranging from offices to hotels to student accommodation to even film studios. Surveying is a people business and being out of the office meeting new people, negotiating deals, managing teams within the transaction process and presenting to board committees comes with exciting challenges and rewarding outcomes.
What advice would you give to school age girls or young women who may or may not be considering a career in Surveying?
Alice: The surveying professional is very rewarding and a great opportunity to make a difference to the built environment. It doesn’t matter what subjects you think you are good at, there are different surveying pathways to suit people’s strengths and what they enjoy.
Claire: Surveying can mean so many different things – don’t let the title scare you off. Do your research and find out about the many different roles a surveyor can do. Also, don’t label yourself as either ‘academic’ or ‘not academic’ – jobs in real estate are so varied that they require people of all abilities and vocations.
Yvonne: My advice if property is of interest to you, go for it! The surveying profession has a wide range of roles, that has something for everyone. Take the time to research more about the roles in surveying to see which one interests you. For example, you could be part of the development team as a Building Surveyor helping to deliver regeneration in our towns and cities whilst taking into account ESG credentials, finding ways to improve value of property portfolios as an Asset Manager, or undertake multi-million Pound investment deals as an Investment Surveyor. Either way, you are working on assets which are all around us, which help to change the world we live in.
I also recommend speaking with people in the industry, you’ll get a better understanding on what the roles are about and whether it would appeal to you. Use LinkedIn, most surveying professionals are happy to be contacted for advice.
What barriers do you think are keeping women from entering or staying in the profession?
Alice: A lack of awareness and role models plays a big part in women not joining the industry. We need more visible role models so that young women can see people who look like them doing the jobs they dream of doing.
Even when people enter the industry, some aspects of the culture in industry can discourage people from staying in surveying. My company Atkins did a report about career deflection in the engineering industry and the key finding from this was “Other dimensions to the macho culture of engineering and related sectors includes long hours working and presenteeism, endurance of discomfort and self-sufficiency, discomfort in discussing personal issues, and rewarding of risk-taking and competition.”
Claire: Lack of awareness about the profession. I never knew what a surveyor was when I was at school or what qualifications were needed to work in the real estate industry. Historically, I believe that only people that had family members in the profession knew about it, and this was largely male dominated. Sessions like Women of the Future events are so important to educate girls that may never have heard of a surveyor.
Yvonne: More needs to be done to help encourage more women into the profession, for example by increasing awareness to school aged women and briefing career advisors on the various routes to surveying. There is a gender imbalance within the profession, with just 18% of women Chartered Surveyors (as at Feb 2022). The profession is male dominate and part of the barrier is around the lack of awareness of various roles within the surveying profession. With fewer women in leadership roles compared to men, some may view this as a barrier for staying in the profession. The industry needs to help encourage more women to apply for leadership roles, to help increase the number of inspiring role models for future women Chartered Surveyors.