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News & opinion

3 MAR 2021

Celebrating the remarkable contribution of women in our profession

International Women’s Day, March 8, marks a point in the year when we reflect on and celebrate the achievement of women. But this year will feel like no other. Many women across our profession have led and delivered innovative solutions in the face of challenges for which no blueprint or precedent ever existed.  The number of female RICS assessors, who have played a critical role assessing candidates digitally since last year, have also increased, with a quarter now being women. On a personal note, I was touched on a recent call with RICS colleagues, to meet again the woman who managed the first RICS qualification pathway for facilities management. She remembered me as the only woman on the FM qualification route at the time and I reflected on how her innovation paved the way for the fulfilling career I have enjoyed so far.

Since last year, RICS has been profiling stories of resilience from across the profession globally in the face of COVID-19. From facilities management solutions for COVID-19 treatment centres in Nigeria, to tech solutions to support safe environments for construction workers in the US. RICS professionals have built field hospitals in China and Singapore, and set up vaccination centres in the UK. There are so many examples of inspirational leadership from women across our profession, be they newly qualified or sitting in the C-suite. RICS has published some of their stories this week and I am proud to celebrate the contribution of every single woman towards delivering on our public interest purpose.

At RICS it is encouraging that 50% of the Executive team and 40% of the senior leadership are women. As a consequence, our gender pay gap is also closing year on year. As an RICS Fellow, I am also pleased that this year RICS began recognising efforts to advance diversity and inclusion within the framework of characteristics to become a Fellow.

Notwithstanding our progress, women make up just 17% of RICS professionals globally, so we still have a long way to go. A few years ago, RICS formalised in its corporate objectives a commitment to tackling this with a target to increase the proportion of those entering the profession that are women. This currently stands at 26%. I would like to commend everyone across our profession who continued to prioritise gender parity during this most difficult of years.

The UN theme Women in leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world captures the challenge perfectly. Everyone needs to speak up and embody #choosetochallenge, this year’s overall IWD theme, making equality a priority even through a pandemic. We need more #choosetochallenge action, and we must hold ourselves and others to account to realise the change we want to see. So, as we work through and emerge from the impacts of the pandemic, I would urge us all to be focused not only on the short-term recovery but also on the once-in-a-generation opportunity to reset and ‘build back better’ for a more equal profession.

  • Kath Fontana FRICS, RICS President