Ahead of this year’s International Women’s Day (8 March) the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) is urging property firms in Northern Ireland to make their female role models more visible, and break down any barriers that prevent them from progressing into leadership positions.
Women are expected to make up more than a quarter of the construction workforce by 2020 in the UK, 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 all 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.
However changes are taking place in the industry in Northern Ireland, as 29% of RICS members born after 1980 – those known as Generation Y – are female.
Lynn Taylor, a chartered surveyor with Lisney in Belfast, is also chairperson of RICS Matrics NI, a networking and support group for those in the early stages of their surveying career.
She said: “Firms with more of an equal gender balance have a competitive advantage, and I think a lot of companies are starting to realise that. We just need to get away from the stereotype that working in property or construction is all about hard hats and working on building sites.
“I’ve had the opportunity to work on some remarkable schemes that have improved Northern Ireland’s built environment, and had a profoundly positive impact on local communities and I hope that inspires other women thinking of entering the industry.”
Balancing family and work commitments, as well as what often is perceived as a ‘job for men only’, are seen as the most common barriers to progression encountered by women in the land, property and construction sectors, according to the RICS.
To help address barriers to progression for women RICS has developed an initiative known as the Inclusive Employer Quality Mark (IEQM) designed to help firms of all sizes – in 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 across the UK 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 rics.org/diversity or for details of the 2018 RICS Matrics Young Surveyor of the Year Awards and how to enter, visit rics.org/ysoya.