When you look at the different sectors where RICS professionals operate – from construction and infrastructure to property or facilities management – there is a common perception that these are some of the most male-dominated careers in industry. In this case, unfortunately until only recently, this perception has been the reality, because our figures show that women make up just 16% of our total global qualified professionals.
As we reflect this International Women’s Day (IWD), we should recognise that this is simply not good enough for a profession that aims to act always in the advantage of the public. I am passionate about this subject, because to me it strikes at the fundamental purpose of our profession: to deliver confidence. We need to be able to demonstrate through the diversity of our profession that the places and spaces people live and work are designed with the needs of everyone in mind – because without this there is no trust and without trust there can be no confidence.
So, for this year’s IWD theme of forging a gender equal world, I believe our biggest opportunity is to work on better reflecting the society we serve. We must be honest that we have not always got things right and recognise that we are starting from a low base. But I am convinced that we can move the dial, if only we are willing to make a concerted effort to change.
The area that we can have the greatest immediate impact in making our profession more inclusive is clear – we need to attract more women to the profession. The good news is that we are beginning to see progress, with the proportion of women newly qualifying into our profession increasing around the world.
This promises to create a pipeline of future talent, but ensuring these women stay and thrive in our profession will be just as important, and I have identified three key areas where I feel RICS can make a real difference.
As RICS prioritises increasing the representation of female professionals, we have set an ambition for the proportion of women entering the profession. Over the next 3 years, we would like to see women make up at least a third of newly qualified professionals and new trainees. Last year we saw a notable increase and are on track for our ambition. I am encouraged by this promising pipeline and we will continue to measure and report on our progress in this way.
When the starting numbers are as low as they are, it is essential that we make a conscious effort to ensure the women in our profession are seen and heard. This signals our aspirations for the future – that they, as role models, inspire the talent we need to attract in the years ahead.
For a number of years, I have personally committed not to speak on conference panels where no women are present – there are so many women whose voices and expertise can add great value to these engagements and I am glad that I can use this form of influence to drive change. RICS teams around the world have made similar commitments, with our South East Asia colleagues securing female professionals as speakers at all major conferences for the last three years.
We also find ways to celebrate the contribution of women in our profession and give them a platform, such as through our support for the Women of the Future Awards Real Estate, Infrastructure and Construction category in the UK and the Women of the Future Awards Southeast Asia which recognises the contribution of remarkable women early in their careers. We also do our best to publish profiles of women from across the profession around the globe with many being showcased by us this week. Sharing the personal stories of the people behind the statistics and hearing about their challenges and opportunities helps us all learn how to better support them.
It may have taken RICS 146 years to have a female as its President, but in the last 5 years two outstanding female role models have successfully fulfilled this role, and at the end of 2020, we will see a third.
As a global professional body, we own the responsibility to champion the change we want to see. This means making sure women take their place on our decision-making boards and I am proud to say that we have welcomed more women onto our global World Regional Boards over the last year.
Leading by example is also about our RICS colleagues: I am glad to see our own gender pay gap for our UK people close from 30% to 19.7% (median) over the last year, and the gap for all countries in which we operate outside the UK standing even lower at 6.5% (median). This is the first time we have published this latter figure and I am pleased to see this as another sign of the positive change that transparency brings.
We have also committed to further eliminate bias in talent processes, such as analysing recruitment wording and building inclusion measures into the terms of business of those we use to recruit. It’s good to see our efforts already having an impact and we know we must continue to evolve so that we nurture society’s trust in shaping an environment suitable for all.
These are just some of the measures we can take to drive an inclusive profession and organisation. We have a long way to go and the proof will be in the real progress we make. I look forward to reporting on this in the years ahead and being able to demonstrate that we really are delivering confidence for all who use and benefit from the built and natural environment.
Chief Executive Officer
Sean has been Chief Executive of RICS since September 2010. Sean has transformed RICS from a traditional, trusted UK mark of professionalism built on high standards and ethics to one of international recognition, influence and thought leadership. From governments to financial institutions, RICS’ standards, qualifications and thought leadership are respected and recognised. As well as advancing RICS’ strategy and goals, Sean is also a passionate champion for greater diversity and inclusion within the profession.