According to the latest RICS statistics on Women in Surveying as at end of September, 13% of Global Chartered Surveyors (FRICS/MRICS) and 27% of students are female. Compare this with the 3% female membership at the end of the 1980’s and the progress made in diversifying the profession in less than three decades is clear. In particular, the sector seems to be losing it’s reputation as being for men only with a marked increase in women studying towards RICS-accredited degree courses. This is testament to the hard work being undertaken by bodies such as the RICS Raising the Ratio task-force, set up in 2000 to help break down barriers to the recruitment and retention of women in the property profession.
We decide therefore to reprieve a Women in Surveying interview with Kathleen Johnson carried out by RICS last year and ask our own Abi Peters the same set of questions;
Abi, how long have you been a surveyor and why did you choose surveying as your career path?
“I’ve been in the profession for 4 years and plan to complete my RICS qualification towards the end of next year. It wasn’t until I took a detailed career test on the National Careers Service website that I became interested in surveying. I’ve always had a real passion for historical buildings and remember lots of trips with my parents to National Trust properties and castles. The test showed that Surveying offered a mix of site visits and building conservation together with varied office work which sounded just what I was looking for. A role in building control with my local authority and a few part time jobs helped me fund my degree course and here I am!”
Why do you think females do not choose a surveying career?
“The perception of construction is still one of a very male dominated sector. I think a lot of early career advice tends to look at construction as a whole and can miss some of the related sectors where the balance is improving. I certainly wouldn’t have considered surveying if I hadn’t spent time testing my own aptitude. There does appear to be more females studying towards RICS qualifications than ever before, which is great news as I was 1 of 3 females on my course of 25! ”
Do you think there is a lack of knowledge and understanding of the various roles on offer?
“ I do think this is improving but here at Chawton Hill there are various surveying specialisms that can confuse potential candidates. The key is to understand and identify at an early stage that you do need a certain set of qualities to become a surveyor; confidence, attention to detail, strong personality and yes you do need to be climb ladders in the cold. ”
Would you recommend a career in surveying for a female or a young person coming out of school?
“See above but definitely yes. My advice would be to find, if possible, a larger organisation that can help you towards obtaining the relevant training. Take all the on-line tests you can find and if you have a genuine interest in the built environment, new technologies and sustainability then surveying is a fantastic, rewarding career, where every day is genuinely different.
What are the disadvantages of being a female in this chosen career?
“I’m afraid to say that having a family is still a big issue and not just for the surveying sector. The increasing cost of childcare often makes returning to work difficult. However many more companies are becoming more flexible and the belief in ‘presenteeism’ – just staying late in the office for no other reason than to look busy is becoming a thing of the past. I would encourage having this conversation early with any potential employee .”
What are the positive sides of being a women in surveying?
“Much for same for my male colleagues. If you know your profession people are generally helpful and supportive. The work is varied, involves understanding a huge variety of specialisms and there is nothing better than seeing the improvement a well designed and delivered project can make to pupils, residents or employees.”
Do you think you need to be physically strong to undertake the role of a surveyor?
“In general I think physicality is less relevant. Yes you can spend hours on your feet, sometimes in difficult environments but Health and Safety is paramount, so you should never feel obliged to take on a situation that isn’t safe and within your limitations. Obviously if you need help in lifting a heavy object, H&S would say two people are required anyway.”
How has becoming a surveyor helped you as a person?
“I’ve enjoyed meeting and presenting to new clients which I’m sure has helped my communication skills. As I’ve successfully completed projects, there’s no doubt that it’s helped boost my confidence but I’m sure my colleagues at Chawton Hill would say that’s an area that doesn’t need much improvement :)”
In summary, what would be your advice for women in surveying?
“Take a career test to see if there is a fit with your character. Try and spend some time with a surveyor and see if any of your local companies would be willing to take you on as an intern. Definitely spend time on the RICS site and take their advice on the best education routes.
Join some of the surveying groups on LinkedIn and ask for advice. Finally feel free to post any questions below and I’ll do my best to help.
Best of luck!”