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News & opinion

26 MAR 2020

Joanna Farnsworth shares her thoughts on diversity in the profession

RICS, by its very nature, is a diverse group of professionals, having no less than 22 surveying pathways. Est Modus in Rebus, except, it seems, in the diversity of our membership which is still only 16 per cent female, although on the regional boards the proportion rises to 30 per cent. 

I was delighted to be asked to speak on the panel as RICS celebrated International Women’s Day 2020, sharing my experiences of regional board membership, which I hope will inspire others. Applying for the position on the East of England regional board in late 2017 pushed me well and truly outside of my comfort zone, and I felt daunted yet excited by the opportunity. It was a chance for me to give something back to the profession as well as develop personally, in an environment that I had yet to experience at that point in my career.

Joanna Farnsworth
Joanna Farnsworth

To be successful in our endeavour, I believe that we need to be relatable, visible, empathetic, treating everyone with dignity and respect. Being part of a diverse board provides us all with a greater pool of knowledge and experience to draw upon to broaden our individual understanding and strengthen our standing as a profession.


Joanna Farnsworth

For many women in the industry, board positions are simply out of reach, with only 12 per cent of positions in contracting businesses occupied by women. As I see things, one of the main reasons for this is that there are simply too few positions available in this most competitive of environments, which, combined with the very low ratio of women to men in senior positions, reduces the opportunities available. In my experience most board positions are already occupied by very talented and long serving individuals unlikely to leave their post any time soon. That said, we have a strong pipeline of professional women coming through, that I hope will be retained and fulfil the leadership positions of the future. 

I am grateful to RICS for providing me with new opportunities through the regional board, from which I have already learned a lot and grown enormously as a professional. In our modern society there is an underlying distrust of authority, yet in times of crisis we all need guidance and seek the help of professionals. As members we are all responsible for demonstrating and upholding the highest of standards, promoting trust within and ensuring the sustainability of the built environment for future generations.

As part of my role I take part in many events, meeting peers, members, other construction professionals, alongside customers and neighbours within the wider community. It gives me joy to listen to their stories and share some of the work the board has been involved in, such as raising money to provide shelter and opportunities for those without a home, going into schools to inspire future generations, engaging with our membership and providing support for fellow members.

There are many surveyors in our profession that have served for many years and haven’t had the opportunity to have their stories heard, and yet we can all learn so much from each other. I ask you to step forward, share your story, take the opportunity be a leader and help to develop a leadership of the future that looks more like the society it serves today.

  • Joanna Farnsworth FRICS, MCIOB, Board Member at RICS, Commercial Manager at Galliford Try Partnerships, London Construction Awards Woman in Construction Finalist 2019

RICS are driving the creation of a diverse workforce, fit for the future