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7 APR 2021

Celebrating the contribution of female surveyors to construction

To mark International Women’s Day on 8 March, seven female chartered surveyors from five different continents participated in a webinar celebrating chartered surveyors in the construction industry, organised by Anil Singh Rana FRICS in Mauritius. The event was part of the Giving Back to the Industry video series, which aims to support professionals during the pandemic.

Female surveyors from Australia, Cambodia, Canada, Mauritius, Nigeria, the UK and the US shared their experiences and lessons from the industry in their respective countries of work, as well as addressing the challenges faced by women in construction over the past year. But they encouraged more to join the industry, and reflected on how to enlighten the next generation of built environment professionals to ensure a sustainable, gender-inclusive environment.

Ann Gray FRICS, a Los Angeles-based chartered commercial property surveyor and RICS senior vice-president 2020–21, mentioned that the proportion of members who are women has risen to more than 17% from only 13% a decade ago. She shared her thoughts on RICS' recently launched Defining our Future initiative, which is consulting all members about what the organisation can do to shape our profession and society, and she told participants that 'we are the custodians of the built environment'. She concluded: 'As a woman for whom the property profession has been a lifelong calling, I can attest that it accommodates a wide range of abilities and interests. I encourage every young woman to explore the possibilities.'

We are proud of the contribution that our women professionals make, delivering solutions that help shape the world

Atinuke Ettu MRICS, a project manager based in Nigeria, advised that, if you are 'not sure about how to achieve what you desire', you should 'find a mentor, someone who has done or is doing what you want to do, and learn from them. And don’t forget to give back and share knowledge with other interested minds.' Commercial manager Leila Rostom MRICS of Cambodia concurred, saying: 'We know that when we share our skills and experience with a mutually respectful and open-minded approach, great things can happen.' Meanwhile, Shilpa Nahaboo MRICS, director of a Mauritian quantity surveying firm, reminded those 'in a position of leadership' that they should 'lead by example. Always guide and help those around you.'

From Canada, cost consultant Angela Denice Lai FRICS commented that 'when we have to work harder for things, it makes achievements and successes more rewarding. Do not see any failures or struggles as an obstacle, but rather as an opportunity to become more resilient and tenacious.' Kiran Kaur Dhillon MRICS, a UK commercial manager, affirmed this when she said: 'Everyone has a responsibility to challenge the status quo. Collectively and collaboratively, we need to ensure the hard work of icons such as Lenore Janis and Irene Barclay and so many others continues to inspire all women to leave a legacy behind.'

Australian quantity surveyor Nirvana Rampersad MRICS summarised: 'Each of us has a unique journey. Some have just started their career, some are halfway through, some are at the top and others are going through hardships. No matter where you are, no matter how hard life gets, never give up. Keep dreaming. Keep going!'

This issue was picked up in a question-and-answer session with the speakers, in particular what women in the industry can do to foster better mental health for everyone in construction. The common theme in each speaker's response was that we should listen and encourage people to reach out. Ann recommended that, in these difficult times, members can always contact RICS' sister organisation LionHeart Foundation Lionheart, a benevolent fund that provides health and well-being packages, legal and personal counselling, and other work-related support.

Anil meanwhile thanked RICS CEO Sean Tompkins, current president Kathleen Fontana FRICS and past presidents Amanda Clack FRICS and Louise Brooke-Smith FRICS OBE for their global support in celebrating the remarkable contribution of women to the profession. For Anil, inspiring today’s built environment professionals will help to meet tomorrow’s global challenges.

The full webinar can be viewed on YouTube