Female property role models in the South West must become more visible, says RICS

women's day rics

RICS is calling for barriers in leadership to be broken

This year’s International Women’s Day saw the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) urging property firms in the South West to make their female role models more visible, and break down any barriers that prevent them from progressing in to leadership positions.

Women are expected to make up more than a quarter of the construction workforce by 2020, up from its current level of about 14%, but last year it was revealed there were fewer than 21 women on the boards of the top 20 UK contractors. To add to this, latest figures from RICS reveal that just 14% of chartered surveyors in the UK are female, which is an improvement on previous years, but still demonstrates that the surveying profession has a long way to go in attracting senior female role models.

Chartered Building Surveyor, Jo Williams is a Partner at Sanderson Weatherall. Jo has been a long standing member of Women in Property and is National Chairman in 2018/19. Jo is also an active Mentor, RICS APC Assessor, a CITB Construction Ambassador and an External Examiner for the University of Greenwich.

Jo said: “Attracting talent into the industry is critical to meet our skills shortage, but nurturing their ongoing development is equally essential to sustain a happy, diverse and high performing workforce. Women provide a huge talent pool which employers have been missing out on. While great work is being done by many businesses, there are still too many out-dated working practices and short-sighted business attitudes at a senior level. Women need to be more visible, to show employers what they can achieve, both within the workforce and for the benefit of the business.”

Bristol-based Building Surveyor, Sophie Smith of Atkins further added: “Chartered Surveying is a globally recognised profession and we must ensure this is open to all, regardless of background, or gender. We are a proud industry, but have lagged behind others in terms of making a diverse workforce.” 

“It is amazing how many men and women have approached me about possible career opportunities. Being a role model to others is crucial, and for me personally, having a role model transformed my career and kept me motivated through difficult times by leading by example. Jo Williams is someone I look up to and is an example of a female surveyor who has a successful career in the industry.”

Balancing family and work commitments, as well as what often is perceived as a ‘job for men only’, are the most common barriers to progression, encountered by women in the land, property and construction sectors. In November 2017, Jo Williams’ Women in Property group with GapSquare and Rosemont Partnership, published their survey of construction professions in the South West region. ‘Building a Better Workforce’ identified flexible working as the most important factor on employment choice for both men and women. Yet some employers still think that their gym membership package will attract a talented, loyal, long term workforce.

To help address these issues RICS has developed an initiative known as the Inclusive Employer Quality Mark (IEQM) designed to help firms of all sizes – across the land, property and construction sectors – gain a more diverse and inclusive workforce. It asks firms to pledge their commitment to adopting and continually improving across a number of key areas including recruitment and staff development. Signatories of the pledge are assessed on an ongoing basis, with RICS providing support on any areas identified as needing improvement.

Barry Cullen, RICS Diversity & Inclusion Director adds: “Over 160 organisations have become signatories of our Quality Mark, and it’s been fantastic to see many of these firms put in place, or make improvements to their mentoring schemes, with some even launching their own corporate female support networks, and many offering flexible working patterns and improved return to work programmes.”

He adds: “As a profession, we are making strides in creating a more diverse and inclusive industry; 27% of our newly-qualified members are female and enrolments are up by 3% on last year to 26%. This demonstrates that the land, property and construction sectors are increasingly becoming more attractive to women as a career. To ensure the industry continues to attract more female talent, firms must ensure they provide equal opportunities for all.”

For further information about the RICS Inclusive Employer Quality Mark visit www.rics.org/diversity   


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