Author: Stephen Cornish FFPWS PhD MA BSc FRICS -Director for Marketing and Promotion 

Posted:  26 November 2021  

Women in Surveying


The Faculty of Party Wall Surveyors’ website sets out the commitment to encouraging equality, diversity and inclusion among its employees, members, third parties and the public, and eliminating unlawful discrimination. The aim is to be truly representative of all sections of society. The Faculty’s equality, diversity and inclusion policy is fully supported by the directors of the Faculty of Party Wall Surveyors and each member of the Board has taken a course on this vast topic.1 The course both confirmed and raised further awareness on pertinent issues. This particular article focuses on equality and diversity for women in the Party Wall Surveying profession.

The Surveying profession in general compares unfavourably with some other professions in terms of the number of women members. According to a 2020 Report provided by the Bar, the proportion of women at the Bar had increased by 0.2 percentage points since December 2019. As of December 2020, women constituted 38.2 per cent of the Bar. Interesting, women make-up of 50.2 per cent of the UK working age population.2 Currently there are two women directors out of seven on the Faculty’s Board and we hope that eventually the representation of women at this level will rise to accord with the national average. The Board is clearly a small number in terms of representation. At the date of writing this article, women make up 16.6% of the Membership. I was encouraged by a 27 % representation of women on a beginners’ training course I recently hosted for the Faculty but more needs to be done. The Faculty has a diverse professional membership, including building and quantity surveyors, Architects, engineers and many others who have made an impressive career change from a totally different occupation. The number of women forming part of this diverse group of professions and former occupations varies but the construction professions are still dominated by men.

I am also a Fellow of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (‘RICS’) who in 1922 admitted Irene Barclay as the first woman chartered surveyor in Britain; it is perhaps no coincidence that Irene’s achievement followed the passage of the Sex Disqualification Removal Act of 1919. An article by the law firm Mishcon de Reya informs us that Irene was closely followed by Evelyn Perry who qualified in 1923, and they went on to form their own partnership, Barclay and Perry Chartered Surveyors. Their female-led firm was ground-breaking in a male dominated profession, not least in their work in the provision of social housing. They helped to establish several housing associations, contributed to the building of nearly 1,000 homes, and most famously, helped to improve living conditions in the slums of St Pancras. 3 Despite such impressive role models from 100 years ago, the small number of women coming into surveying is a concern. In 2014 the RICS launched ‘Surveying the Future’ when Louise Brooke-Smith, the RICS’s first female President, took the reins. In the RICS’ words…

“Surveying the Future aims to demonstrate the breadth and range of careers within property, land and construction and attract more talent to the industry from people with diverse background.

The campaign was launched because the industry continues to be white, middle class and male dominated. Currently only 13% of chartered surveyors and 28% of trainees are women and across the whole of the construction sector, employing over 2.5 million people, women comprise just 11%.”

Olivia Neville, Senior Building Surveyor at Cushman & Wakefield, produced a wellresearched article referring to information published in November 2019 by the RICS, where the percentage of women entering into the surveying profession was 31% with a 93% increase in the number of women enrolling since 2014. Additionally, statistics provided to Neville by the RICS, showed that the total percentage of female Chartered Surveyors was 16% in August 2020, having increased from 12% in
July 2012. Neville’s own research led her to conclude that “we are on a positive curve with the total percentage of female Chartered Surveyors within the RICS increasing year on year. The rate of change is identical for the Building Surveying
pathway, faster for the Quantity Surveying and Construction pathway and even faster for the Project Management pathway,  hich is great to see. […] However, the total percentage of female Chartered Surveyors – within the RICS as a whole, Project Management and in particular Building Surveying and Quantity Surveying and Construction – when compared to male hartered Surveyors, is very low and has been year on year.”

I encourage you to read Olivia Neville’s article and her suggestions to address the short-fall of women in surveying.4 Her identification of the variation in the percentage of women in different surveying disciplines is relevant. In terms of encouraging women into the Party Wall profession, the Faculty works hard at avoiding the type of marketing material which targets men, such as, photographs showing male surveyors on building sites wearing hard hats. The Faculty intends to continue its development of marketing material showing diversity and incorporate gender, ethnicity, disability, age etc. The Faculty welcomes input from women currently working in the construction industry (members and non-members of the Faculty) and any support that they can offer in reaching out to organisations such as Women in Property, Women on Boards, Property Week Open Plan and RICS Visible Women. In the meantime, I will ask you to look out for a podcast we shall be recording soon, where I will be asking Faculty members Reema Bharakda-Patel and Kate Farrar about their experiences in becoming and practicing as surveyors, and their respective directorships of the Faculty and Woodward Chartered Surveyors.

1 Run by the organisation High Speed Training, which provides for on-line high quality. Interactive training .


3 https://www.mishcon.com/news/women-property-shapers-irene-barclay

4 Olivia Neville “Women in Surveying: A Review of the Statistics of Chartered Women Professionals and the Steps Being Taken to Address Diversity. Published on March 8, 2021”