Diversity and Inclusion within the RICS, here’s to the next 150 years – By Barry Cullen

It is with a gratitude, and a slight dose of imposter syndrome that I write this blog. Thank you to the Surveying Sisterhood for providing me the opportunity to write about the progress made by RICS in relation to diversity and inclusion, and specifically improving gender balance within surveying. It has been humbling to witness the development of the Surveying Sisterhood group. On International Women’s Day 2018 RICS made a request for firms and allies to help improve the visibility of women in the surveying. The response was overwhelming, the twitter feed and #lovesurveying was an inspirational mix of supportive messages and photos of women in surveying, on site. I hope we helped pave the way for this blog and the calls to action and continued visibility of women in the profession that have followed since.

In the year that RICS celebrated 150 years, and also 100 years since women won the vote it is a good time to reflect on the changes that have occurred and been necessary to improve gender diversity and ensure that women see surveying as a career of choice and progression.


To begin, let’s look to the pioneer for women in surveying. Irene Barclay is rightly heralded not only as being the first woman to qualify as a Chartered Surveyor, but also as an advocate for social change. The institution had existed for 54 years prior to Irene qualifying, it was obvious that change should and would need to happen, but progress was very slow.

As indicated in the graph below by 1980 the percentage of women qualified as surveyors was only 1% in the UK. Through the decade there was some improvement, but it was the turn of this century that saw greater action taken and acceleration of change begin.

Women in the profession

In 2000, the Raising the Ratio taskforce was established by Jonathan Harris FRICS to tackle the inequality and gender disparity that existed within a profession that had a low number of women qualified as professionals. As was expressed by Jonathan Harris at the time:

“The role of RICS’s Raising the Ratio taskforce is to highlight the issues and opportunities for women in the surveying and property professions. It aims to work with employers to encourage them to draw skills and talent from a wider pool,” says Jonathan Harris, chair of the taskforce. “Excluding 50 per cent of the population on the basis of their gender is not only discriminatory but ultimately bad for business.”

Louise Ellison of Kingston University wrote the Raising the Ratio report in 2003. Key to the findings and recommendations in this report was the need for a more progressive approach to work/life balance and flexible working, themes which are prevalent to this day. The RICS library and the expertise and wealth of knowledge that Annette Howard possess are indispensable to anyone wanting to learn more about the history of improving gender balance in surveying.


In 2014 RICS elected the first woman President, Louise Brooke Smith. Louise, a leading Planning and Development surveyor and Champion of Diversity and Inclusion, ensured that changing the industry was at the heart of her presidency. Louise launched the Inclusive Employer Quality Mark in 2015, the IEQM was designed to enable companies of all sizes to assess and measure their approach to diversity and inclusion. Firms received a report detailing where they had made progress and where action was required to ensure further change. This lead to the development of a knowledge hub gathering case studies and best practice, the monthly RICS Diversity Matters newsletter and the Building Inclusivity report. Louise’s presidency heralded a significant step change in RICS commitment to diversity and inclusion, changes that are being realised in the profession today and for the future.

2016 saw Amanda Clack become RICS President and a commitment through her Presidency to ensure continuation of diversity, inclusion and inspiring the next generation being priorities for the profession. Amanda has been a passionate advocate for surveyors since qualifying as a Quantity Surveyor and has been involved in all levels of RICS governance. Her work to encourage, inspire and support women in the built environment continues through mentoring and also co-authoring a book The CEO Guide to Diversity and Inclusion in Real Estate.

Sean Tompkins, RICS CEO has long been a champion for diversity within surveying. Most notably making a CEO pledge to increase the diversity of conference panels, questioning and challenging any all-male panels that he is invited to speak on.


In order to attract the widest and most diverse profession, innovation and a better understanding of the audience you are seeking to engage is essential. RICS modernised the approach to engagement. This began with visible, diverse surveyors featuring in both flip books and hard copy versions of schools brochures and student careers guides.

Having undertaken a survey of parents across the UK it became evident that a lack of awareness of who surveyors were and what they did existed, and that more needed to be done to engage and attract. RICS worked with 2 YouTube vloggers in order to go to the space that young people occupy and inhabit. Eve Bennett’s video was specifically designed to engage with her audience of young women, aged 13-19, who had interests in fashion, shopping and education. She met women in the profession who worked in inspiring roles and with similar interests. The video increased the traffic from young women to the RICS careers page by 110%, the video itself has had approximately 20,000 views and positioned surveying as a career of choice to a receptive market.

By visiting schools through the Inspire 2020 programme, ensuring that ambassadors are able to present a vision of a career that most of the audience have yet to learnt about has been a huge success. 80% of participants said that they would consider surveying as a future career choice following the 2 hour workshop. RICS is committed to ensuring that these young people continue to gain as much insight and access to information, advice and guidance that will lead them to the profession, it is one thing to inspire young minds, it is essential to continually engage them. Through the development of an online game, access to information about courses, apprenticeships and routes to membership there will be an uptake in opportunities from a wider talent pool.

Celebrating diverse talent within the profession is essential to raising awareness and demonstrating that surveying is a progressive industry and RICS are committed to promotion of underrepresented groups within the built environment. Young Surveyor of the Year was established in 2014 and has seen a wealth of talented individuals recognised for their excellence in their early careers. RICS also sponsors the Women of the Future and Asian Women of Achievement award category; Real Estate, Construction and Infrastructure, again recognising the achievements of women across the built environment.


The work over the last 4 years is certainly beginning to translate into positive outcomes. 29% of enrolments across APC and AssocRICS are women, 5% up on 2017/18 cohort. 26% of newly qualified professionals are women showing a continued rise year on year. These figures are encouraging and are testament not only to the work of RICS, but also of inspiring professionals, visible women demonstrating that the built environment does offer a career path for women.

HOWEVER…more must be done to retain talented women later in their careers. A significant drop off takes place when women reach their 30s and 40s. Flexible working is increasing, however not at the pace of change to address the gaps in the profession. The technology is at our disposal to make the profession flexible, it is a progressive culture however that needs to be switched on. Women Returners have worked already with several large firms within the built environment to provide engagement and support back into the workplace, flexible working is offered in most cases for any subsequent opportunities. Generationally, there will be a shift, increasing numbers of women coming into the profession requires a modern approach to supporting those with families to strike the right work/life balance.

To look to the future, we return to the past. At the end of the momentous 150th RICS anniversary, the institution’s longest serving patron, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II visited the London, Global HQ. During the visit Her Majesty learnt about the developments in the profession that will stand it in good stead for the next 150 years. Key to this is tech and diversity. Arup presented a virtual reality demonstration of a major infrastructure project, before the institution’s patron met with the diversity champions and future professionals who will be the lifeblood of the industry. DEC students from Clacton, Matrics Chair and Vice Chair and the 2017 Apprentice of the Year.

In 2017 RICS released The Impact of Emerging Technologies on the Surveying Profession report which stressed both the benefits and risks to the industry of the 4th Industrial Revolution and the disruption that this will usher in. From a diversity and inclusion perspective, this provides a significant opportunity to attract talent from different backgrounds. Whether this be the gamers and tech users that Ali A was engaging in his YouTube video with RICS or providing a route for women interested in a tech career but are put off by the tech industry, one that also lacks diversity. Surveyors will be at the forefront of change in the industry and shaping the world to come.

There is still a HUGE amount of work to be done. 2019 will see the relaunch of the IEQM; if your company isn’t signed up, they can here and complete the self-assessment from February to April. Gender Pay Gap reviews will be available in April and will demonstrate what changes have been made since legislation came in 2018. To find out what is happening within the built environment related to diversity and inclusion subscribe to the Diversity Matters newsletter and get in touch with me for any case studies or exceptional surveyors you would like to promote.

One thought on “Diversity and Inclusion within the RICS, here’s to the next 150 years – By Barry Cullen

  1. Louise Brooke-Smith

    Very proud to have been and will continue to be part of the very important change in attitudes and culture across the land property and construction sectors. Looking forward to working with the RICS on all matters of inclusivity and diversity in the coming years. Well done Barry in pulling this piece together.

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