Unite for Better – By Vidhya Issac-Langford

A few weeks ago, my friend Natasha Stone, of the #surveyorhood fame, and I were having a conversation about cross-industry collaboration, something we’re both passionate about, and how joining forces across the industry can be beneficial to us all. From that discussion stemmed this blog post which I was delighted to be asked to write.

Let me tell you what cross-industry collaboration means to me. I am a Civil Engineer and Project Manager working in the rail infrastructure sector. Over the last few years, I have enjoyed a very close kinship with a number of surveyors and engineers, among other professionals, all leading their fields, making an impact, being visible and sometimes quietly getting on with it – both inspired and inspirational. Having been shortlisted for a Woman of the Future award sponsored by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) in the Real Estate, Infrastructure & Construction category in 2017, I joined a network of the finalists – all strong and successful role-models. The camaraderie and support of this network has been an empowering experience for me, making me a better version of myself, and giving me a great platform from which to influence, motivate, inspire and shine a light on the achievements of others. There’s something very powerful about having this safe space in which to grow – of trusted friends and advisers, who inspire everyday by their many achievements, who are there to support and listen, and in the process we all learn strategies for success together, much the same as the Surveyorhood community. Everyone in the RICS Women of the Future network has then gone on to scale new heights of professional success, be it getting promoted, starting new businesses, and so on and so forth.

In supporting the creation of this group, RICS and the Women of the Future Programme have really shown me an exemplary model that is supportive of helping retain female talent, nurturing and supporting them in moving to more senior / leadership roles, not least by providing access to and the support of senior leaders within the industry. So how can we emulate this success across the construction industry? This is a question I have been reflecting on since a fantastic weekend at the One Woman Conference with Marion Ellis in 2018 and the answer is easy – it’s down to us!

Image courtesy of One of Many women at the One Woman Conference London

Wouldn’t it be amazing if we all worked with our respective professional institutions – if such networks don’t currently exist within them – to celebrate and support women in the same way RICS has done? Particularly within the context of the 2019 Gender Pay Gap reporting and the action needed to tackle all the causes of the pay gap, such networks can empower many more women to grow into leadership roles and also help in getting more women to join male-dominated sectors such as ours. What a force of nature would it be when eventually, all the networks join forces across all professional institutions, leading to true cross-industry collaboration. As Julia Hobsbawm points out in the whitepaper, ‘Fully Connected: a look ahead to working and networking in 2020’, the real challenge that lies ahead is to see the ‘Stiletto Networks’ enter the ‘Old Boys Networks’ and vice-versa. True collaboration will only come when its inclusive – not by being gender-specific, nor include or exclude any groups over and above another.

So, this is a call to arms for all those who feel passionately about being the change to first of all create the women’s networks that the industry needs in sectors and areas where they don’t exist, so that we can use them to progress to a point when we don’t need them! Then let’s make our tomorrow (hopefully in the not-too-distant future) one where the Stiletto Networks and the Old Boys Networks, all merge and become one voice, when we all progress together and collaborate as one.

Image courtesy of Women@ Arcadis for International Women’s Day

Main image courtesy of Women of the Future at the 2017 Women of the future awards

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